Giving Compass' Take:

• Science magazine reports on cancer researchers who, inspired by success with T cells, are now equipping immune cells with tumor-homing protein.

• While this breakthrough is exciting, the road to putting these microscopic cancer killers into practical use is long and will require funding. What can we do to support the work behind it?

• Read about ways for donors to fund cancer research with impact.

The cancer fighters known as CAR T cells have proved their prowess in recent years. Three therapies using the altered T cells against lymphoma or leukemia have won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, and hundreds of trials are now unleashing them on other malignancies, including solid tumors. But the cells may soon have company. Researchers have equipped other immune guardians—natural killer cells and macrophages—with the same type of cancer-homing receptor, and the natural killer cells have made their debut in clinical trials.

CAR T cells — their name comes from the chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR, added to help the immune cells target cancer cells — inspired the new work. CAR natural killer (CAR NK) cells could be safer, faster to produce, and cheaper, and they may work in situations where T cells falter. CAR-carrying macrophages also have potential advantages, and one firm plans to launch the first clinical trials of these cells next year.

Although they aren't likely to replace CAR T cells, these alternative cancer fighters "could be an addition to the armamentarium of cell therapies," says hematologist and oncologist Katy Rezvani of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is leading the first trial of CAR NK cells in the United States, which began in 2017, and organizing another that is due to start this year.

Read the full article about engineering natural killer cells to fight cancer by Mitch Leslie at Science.