The technique uses 3D printed device on the patient’s tumour. It harvests and sorts hundreds of millions of cells – increasing the number of “tumour-eater” by five-fold. In experiments on mice, growths dramatically shrank – or completely disappeared.
Professor Shana Kelley, of Northwestern University, said: “People have been cured in the clinic of advanced melanoma through treatment with their own immune cells that were harvested out of tumour tissue.
“The problem is, because of the way the cells are harvested, it only works in a very small number of patients.”
The technique is being tipped as revolutionary as most cancer drugs involve toxic chemicals and foreign substances.
These cause harmful side effects and can weaken the body’s natural defences.
Therapies in clinics today use a mixture of “exhausted” and “naive” cells to treat tumours.
They are grown in labs far away from the patients they were collected from.
By the time they have multiplied and are ready to be placed back in the body, many are unable to fight – having been in the tumour for too long.
With their new technique, Prof Kelley and colleagues used a state-of-the-art technology called MATIC (microfluidic affinity targeting of infiltrating cells).
It allows them to find cells in the “Golidlocks population”.
Prof Kelley added: “Instead of giving mice this mixture of cells with different phenotypes, we are giving them the one cell phenotype that can actually help them.
“You see much more potency and a much higher response rate when you really home in on the sweet spot of T cell reactivity.”
The experts say it would be feasible to bring the 3D-printed device into hospital settings.