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Last Updated: 08/10/2021

DCTD Convenes Second Workshop on Cell-Based Immunotherapy for Solid Tumors

DCTD Convenes Second Workshop on Cell-Based Immunotherapy for Solid Tumors

On December 10-11, 2020, DCTD sponsored the Second NCI Workshop on Cell-Based Immunotherapy for Solid Tumors (agenda). Both days of the meeting are available to view (Day 1 External Link and Day 2 External Link ).

This virtual meeting followed the successful first workshop on this topic held in December 2018. The purpose of these meetings has been to define critical barriers in the field and identify ways in which NCI can better support the extramural community and help advance cell therapy research. A summary of both workshops was published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer in July 2021.

Since the first workshop, with DCTD support, NCI has:

2020 Workshop Summary

The 2020 workshop reviewed cutting-edge technologies for the development of autologous and allogeneic cell-based therapies for solid tumors, including current methods for designing, testing, and manufacturing cell products. By bringing together extramural researchers, industry scientists, FDA representatives, and NCI staff, the workshop allowed NCI to gain insight on major challenges and future directions in the field.

Keynote Speakers and Co-Chairs

  • Crystal Mackall, MD (Stanford University)
  • Marcela Maus, MD, PhD (Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital)

Workshop Sessions

  • Choosing the Target: Specificity and Toxicity
  • Reaching the Target: Modulating the Tumor Microenvironment
  • Immune Cell Fitness and Persistence
  • Alternative Approaches: Looking Beyond Traditional CAR-T Cells
  • Cell Product Manufacturing and Characterization
  • Cell Therapies: The FDA Perspective

Workshop Highlights

The workshop identified several major scientific and clinical challenges in the field. NCI will be working to address these barriers and meet the needs of the extramural research community.

Scientific Challenge Potential Solutions
Paucity of appropriate tumor-specific targets Screening approaches and strategies to identify individualized and “public” neoantigens
Insufficient expansion and/or persistence of cell products Strategies to overcome T cell apoptosis, exhaustion, and/or dysfunction due to chronic antigen stimulation
Limited understanding of how T cells behave in vivo after transfer Enhanced imaging approaches and other monitoring strategies
Inadequate T cell homing to tumor Strategies to improve cell trafficking and tumor penetration
Immunosuppressive effects of the tumor microenvironment (TME) Enhanced understanding of how metabolic factors and other aspects of the TME affect immune cell fitness and function
Lack of informative animal models Early-stage “proof of concept” testing on small cohorts of human subjects


Clinical Challenge Potential Solutions
Low availability of GMP reagents Improved investigator access to reagents
Inability to compare between different cell products Standardized methods and assays
Lack of harmonization in IND-enabling studies, especially with new non-viral approaches for cell engineering Improved dialogue with the FDA to reassess required testing, streamline the regulatory process, and reduce cost to investigators
Limited funding and infrastructure for small first-in-human clinical trials Enhanced support for early phase clinical studies