Cancer-Fighting T Cells Are Smarter, Stronger Than Experts Thought, Says Vanderbilt Scientist

Posted at 7:27 AM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 08:31:11-04

It's hard to find a family not touched by cancer. Now, scientists are developing new ways to fight the disease. 

Matthew Lang has spent more than a decade researching cancer-fighting T cells. Lang is a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt. He's trying to develop these so-called "killer T cells" that will be able to find and attack tumors in the body.

T cells are a type of white blood cell and part of the body's immune system. Lang describes them as little "blood hounds." They hunt around in your body, looking for foreign targets (in this case mutations from cancer).

Once a T cell finds what it is looking for, it can copy itself, making other little "blood hounds" that will find and kill cancerous cells.   

Lang says by applying a very, very small amount of force and basically flinging them at damaged cells, a T cell's ability to recognize its target is dramatically enhanced.

"It's very exciting," said Pam Coyle.

Coyle works in the engineering department. She's also a cancer survivor and says Lang's work is very promising.

"Anything that can be more targeted and less invasive is going to be good for everybody."