CAR T-cell Cancer Lab at MD Anderson Tests Cell Thawer

BioCision Brings Automated cell Thawing to a CAR T-cell Cancer Lab at MD Anderson

Helen Huls talks about automated cell thawing and using the ThawSTAR for her CAR T-cell work at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Image credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center

We are pleased to share an interview with Helen Huls, Laboratory Manager of Pediatric Research at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Ms. Huls was excited to beta test the new ThawSTAR® cell thawing system from MedCision prior to commercial release.

Ms. Huls lab is run under the auspices of Dr. Laurence Cooper, who specializes in using “adoptive immunotherapy” to fight cancer. Adoptive immunotherapy is an emerging technology that involves harvesting and then genetically modifying a cancer patient’s white blood cells so that they can more effectively eradicate tumor cells. The technique, perhaps more commonly known as CAR T-cell therapy, is generating excitement in the cancer field, and has already been shown to be effective in Phase 1 clinical studies.

The cryopreserved cells utilized by Ms. Huls’ lab are artificial antigen-presenting cells (aAPCs), which are vital to basic CAR T-cell strategy. The antigens are chosen based on the type of cancer the patient has, and aAPCs are then designed to present these antigenic fragments of a tumor cell to a patient’s T-cells. Due to antigen specificity, this allows recognition and more effective eradication of the cancer cells.

In order to activate and expand their CD 19-specific CAR T-cells, Ms. Huls’ lab must first thaw aliquots of a cryopreserved “feeder” cell line, which is currently accomplished with the use of a water bath. Ms. Huls informed us “…the FDA required cell thawing from the Master Bank every 60 days to ensure nothing has changed. Many GMP settings forbid water baths or at minimum, require water baths be emptied and cleaned after every use.”  Additionally, Ms. Huls’ lab is a translational research lab carrying out pre-clinical evaluation, thus their methodology and protocols must mimic the standard operating procedures in a clinical setting as closely as possible.  With these operating requirements, Ms. Huls wanted an alternate cell thawing solution that can replace the water bath.

Ms. Huls was one of the first to sign up for beta-testing when she learned of the new ThawSTAR® cell thawing system.  Both primary cells and cell lines were assessed, and the results demonstrated performance equivalency between the new system and the water bath. Ms. Huls was pleased with the results and concluded the ThawSTAR® system was exactly what they have been looking for.  The small footprint provided mobility and convenience, allowing for placement next to her workstation.  Time savings was also recognized due to the whole cell thaw process taking less than 5 minutes; which Ms. Huls considered a welcome change from cleaning and setting up a water bath.

It was also noted that an automated cell thawing system is a positive step forward when talking about standardization and consistency; as she describes it,“when you’re (introducing) a product into a patient, we freeze (the cells) in a controlled rate freezer, you’d think you’d want to thaw cells in a controlled rate fashion. I would think people would be extremely happy to see some sort of consistency between the two.”

We are excited the ThawSTAR® cell thawing system will be instrumental in providing  an easier, more reliable route to thawing cells for the crucial studies scientists at MD Anderson are undertaking. To learn more about the ThawSTAR cell thawing system please visit our product page.


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