Skip to nav Skip to content

Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a breast cancer cell (pink) being attacked by a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell (yellow).

Dr. Marco Davila is determined to bring CAR T therapy to a new set of patients, those with solid tumors. CAR T therapy involves a patient’s own T cells that have been genetically engineered to target a patient’s own specific cancer.

Dr. Marco Davila, medical oncologist

“At Moffitt we have treated at least 100 patients over the last 12 months, and we have learned a lot about the power and the function of these cells,” said Davila, referring to CAR T, a form of adoptive cell transfer in which a patient’s own T cells are collected and re-engineered to target and kill their cancer cells. 

Initially used to treat patients with certain blood cancers, the success and focus of CAR T technology are growing. Next up are plans to target solid tumors, despite the treatment challenges these tumors represent compared to blood tumors. Within the medical community, there has been hope, coupled with much skepticism, that CAR T could be expanded to treat solid tumors. Davila, a medical oncologist, and his colleagues at Moffitt Cancer Center are up for the challenge.

“We are headed toward the next major opportunities for gene-engineered cell therapies. We have learned a lot from the hematologic malignancy world, and we are starting to apply that to the solid tumor world,” said Davila at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting. Those targets include ovarian cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer and sarcoma.

Davila anticipates some solid tumor cancers will be susceptible to CAR T therapy, while others will be resistant. “Our job over the next five years is to identify those cancers that are susceptible and take them across the goal line to get them approved [by the FDA] for patients,” said Davila.

The work has begun, and Moffitt investigators are beginning to observe responses from some patients with lung cancer, sarcoma and ovarian cancer who have undergone CAR T therapy. 

“Those early responses mean we are going to start focusing on those diseases with a lot of different CAR T cell technologies to see if we can improve the standard of care,” said Davila.

To learn more, click here for a video interview with Dr. Marco Davila at the 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting.