White blood cells play a vital immune system role as weapons against illness and disease. One kind of white blood cell in particular, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PMNCs or simply MNCs), circulates through the body targeting bacteria, viruses – and even cancer. Bacterial and viral invader cells generally are killed by MNCs; but cancer cells long managed to evade the same fate. Until now.
Thanks to blood donor Research Champions, new immune therapy research has developed living drugs that are able to hone-in & lock-on to cancer cells to combat certain malignancies. Donor MNCs enable new treatment effectiveness & safety testing in labs and new therapy development for patients too sick to produce enough of their own immune cells.
Peripheral blood MNCs primarily consist of lymphocytes – T cells, B cells, natural killer cells – and monocytes. Lymphocyte T cells are the key to new ‘living drug’ immune CAR T cell therapies.
Healthy blood donors give MNCs for treatment research & development that advances medical knowledge and can help save lives. Stable patients give MNCs for research or for their own tailored CAR T cell therapy development.
MNCs are collected from peripheral blood circulation by apheresis: a blood filtering process. Apheresis (pronounced ah-fur-EE-sis ) draws blood out by one IV tube into sophisticated equipment that collects the microscopic MNCs and returns the untargeted blood cells and plasma back into the body by another IV tube.
Donor MNC lymphocytes are used by medical and biopharmaceutical researchers or by CAR T cell therapy developers, depending on the donor’s match to critical need.
Patient MNC lymphocytes may be used for research, if the patient is participating in a study, or are used for the development of CAR T cell therapy the patient will directly receive.
If MNCs are to be used for tailored CAR T cell therapy, they are sent to a medical laboratory after processing by apheresis specialists. Lab scientists engineer the MNCs with a mechanism specific to the targeted cancer that will allow the T cells to attach to or penetrate the specific disease cells and kill them. These newly programmed ‘killer’ MNCs then are multiplied by the millions in the lab.
The resulting CAR T cell therapy product is then sent to the patient’s physician for treatment infusion. Patients generally repeat the immuno-oncologic apheresis and infusion process three times. Patients are closely monitored during CAR T cell therapy and after infusions are complete, to evaluate their response.
Donor MNCs and patient MNCs also are driving immune research into autoimmune disease and regenerative medicine therapies. In addition, MNC research is investigating potential early cancer warning signs revealed by different types of blood cells and new blood diagnostic techniques for different diseases.