Caspar Wistar, M.D.
He was a buddy of Ben Franklin
This is very good news, I believe. My printer seems to agree: when I attempted to print the article (below) it (my printer) stopped working half way through the first page, emitted a terrible scream (of joy?) – and quit working. I take that to be a good omen.
You remember CAR T, right? If not, read
for a refresher course. In brief, CAR T refers to an immunotheraputic process wherein T cells are targeted at specific cancer cells, then venture forth through the body to find them, and kill them. So far CAR T has only been used on blood cancers, but now an outfit called ITUS Corporation (of San Jose, California) is preparing to unleash CAR T technology on solid tumors – beginning with our favorite target – ovarian cancer.
From Bio 1a in high school you remember that cells have various proteins attached to their external membrane. These proteins have specific functions. For instance, they may signal to glucose molecules to come hither, attach, and be eaten (cells need nutrition, after all.) Or they may say “hey, - signals from the pancreas – come over, lock on, and deliver your instructions. That sort of thing.
Well, some smart people have discovered that a particular protein – they call it “follicle stimulating hormone receptor” (FSHR) – exists only on the ovarian cells of adult women. In principal, these means that one can extract T cells from an OVCA patient, modify them to recognize (and kill) cells with FSHR proteins on their surfaces – and destroy those (cancerous) cells. Trials are underway. Clinical applications: maybe two years away.
My family used to have a saying that went something like “There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip”. That is certainly true, so we must be aware that this discovery – so simple, so promising – may come to nothing. But I am greatly encouraged.
So what does Caspar Wistar have to do with any of this? I will tell you.
Dr. Caspar Wistar was a physician in Philadelphia and a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin. He was so important that various academic units of the University of Pennsylvania have born his name. The latest incarnation is the Wistar Institute, which is a biomedical research facility. The CAR T technology as applied to OVCA was developed in the Wistar labs, using funds provided by you and I through the NIH. Wistar Institute does biology, not bio-business, so presumably they sold the right of development to ITUS. However, ITUS has sub-let the actual work to something called the Moffitt Cancer Center. No wonder the development efforts will cost upwards of $ I million.
I tell you all this to help you understand how the Pharma universe operates. I withhold judgement.
Linda, in the mood for Christmas