Immunotherapeutics in the fight against liver cancer: a world first for Rennes University Hospital and the Eugène Marquis Centre

29 March 2021

With over 10,000 new cases every year, liver cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. In Rennes, as part of an international study, the Eugène Marquis Centre and the University Hospital recently launched a therapeutic trial to investigate cellular immunotherapy using cancer-fighting cells. They are the first in France to treat a patient presenting with liver cancer with this novel immunotherapy technique (TCR-T cells).

Immunotherapeutics in the fight against liver cancer: TCR-T cells – a promising medical innovation

The last few years have seen a therapeutic revolution in the treatment of cancer with the emergence of immunotherapy products. These treatments are designed to stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer. Their effectiveness has been demonstrated in several “liquid” cancers, such as certain blood cancers i.e. lymphomas or acute leukaemias. The Rennes University Hospital was one of the first to use these treatments in France through its participation in the very first clinical trials. Little used as yet for “solid” cancers, several cellular immunotherapy studies using TCR-T cell technology are currently looking at ways of extending these techniques to the treatment of solid cancers.

Rennes has launched a therapeutic trial involving TCR-T cells

A therapeutic trial involving TCR-T cells was recently launched in Rennes, the result of a partnership between the Haematology Department at Rennes UH and the Oncology Department at the Eugène Marquis Centre. This study is designed for patients presenting with hepatocellular carcinoma, the commonest primary cancer of the liver and the one that causes the most deaths. As with any study, patients have to adhere to a specific list of criteria (tumour stage, previous treatments, liver function) in order to participate, and are referred based on the opinion of their referring physician.

Only 3 French medical centres, Rennes, Paris and Marseille, are participating in this international trial. Rennes was able to participate due to the international expertise of the Eugène Marquis Centre in the field of liver cancer and that of Rennes UH in the field of cellular therapies.

The Eugène Marquis Centre and Rennes UH treat the first French patient to receive TCR-T cell therapy

Last November, the first French patient to receive TCR-T cell therapy was treated at Rennes UH. The results of this treatment won’t be known until the research has been completed and fully analysed, in around 2 to 3 years. However, this study illustrates the arrival of these cellular immunotherapies in the cancer care landscape and Rennes’ leading competitive position on this treatment issue. The teams at the Eugène Marquis Centre Oncology Department and the Rennes UH Haematology Department are continuing their collaboration in this highly promising area. The coming months should see the launch of other similar studies, extending these novel immunotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of patients presenting with other cancers that have failed to respond to standard treatments.