Cancer stands as one of the gravest health challenges globally. In the quest to combat this formidable disease, biotechnology emerges as a beacon of hope on the horizon. During a recent enlightening Q&A session featuring Laiqha Khadri, the Founder of Immune-Inspired Health Consulting, we had the opportunity to explore the innovations and solutions available.

#LBS: Can you explain the role of biotechnology in enhancing the effectiveness and precision of cancer immunotherapy treatments?

Ms Laiqha: In Cancer or any novel, rare disease/disorder, one targeted precision treatment might not be a well-planned approach. Multiple approaches as an integrative and a holistic and precision approach are the possible treatment approaches. The role of Biotechnology in this integrative approach is a part of treatment which would help the fine tuning of the metabolic, molecular, cellular, immunological, and physiological processes. The procedure here I mean is the treatment, not cure. Cure takes a long time with inclusion of good lifestyle changes and persistently following them through-out with understanding.

So, Biotechnology could be a very important part of the precision approach in the whole procedure of treatment. Biotechnology is the modern approach of molecular and cellular level manipulation for precise tuning of one’s physiology. In cancer, solid and liquid both, identifying the type of mutational burden in the cell which has caused cancer and precisely treating it with a specific drug is what the actual definition as per present scientific knowledge is. But according to me, there are many parameters which need to be considered before planning a therapy for an individual, like Age, Sex, Circadian Rhythm, Demography of a person, stress behavior and the active lifestyle of a person.

One such example of Biotechnology at Genetic level manipulation to enhance immunotherapy is Genetic level manipulation of T-cells in vitro to enhance expression of antigens on their surface which could be better identified by the immune system and immune activation against cancer cells. But this approach alone in isolation is insufficient for the recovery or have a good positive impact of the patient unless an integrative approach is followed to support this treatment by other adjunct methods.

#LBS: What are the most promising recent developments in immune therapy for cancer, and how might they revolutionize cancer treatment in the near future?

Ms Laiqha: Some of the most promising Immunotherapy treatments include administration of monoclonal antibodies, CAR-T cell therapies, Mesenchymal stem cells treatments, mRNA therapies, CAR-NK cell therapies.

Couple of these treatments holds an immense potential in the future for cancer treatment. Let me point out the advantages and disadvantages of these therapies point vise:

Monoclonal Antibodies: Monoclonal antibody treatments is the most followed and the traditional way of administering the externally synthesized antibodies in vitro conditions which find and kill cancer cells and also blocks the antigenic epitope on the antigen presenting cells and dendritic cells, thus modulating the immune response controlling the exaggerated immune response which may damage the normal tissues.

CAR-T cell therapy: This is an immunological therapy which involves the T cell isolated from the patient blood and bioengineered in vitro for expression of more antigen on their surface, for the immune system to effectively recognize when infused back into the body of the patient, and efficaciously activate anti-cancer immune response.

Mesenchymal Stem Cell treatment: MSCs are the hematopoietic stem cells present in bone marrow which proliferate, divide and differentiate to form new blood cells. They exert an immunomodulatory effect by cell-cell contact or indirectly mediated through the release of immunosuppressive factors. They exert inhibitory effect in the differentiation and activation of T cells as well as reduced proliferation and IFN-γ release on invitro expanded T cells.

mRNA therapies: There has been a surge in the use of mRNA-based therapeutics in recent years. With the aim of encoding tumor antigens for cancer vaccines, cytokines for immunotherapy, tumor suppressors to inhibit tumor development, chimeric antigen receptors for engineered T cell therapy or genome-editing proteins for gene therapy, many of these have even entered clinical trials.

CAR-NK cell therapies: CAR-NK cells therapy uses genetically engineered natural killer cells to target specific cancer. CAR-NK cell therapy is still in early development, but it has the potential to be a simpler, more affordable, and less toxic treatment than CAR-T cell therapy, which uses T cells instead of NK cells.

All these therapies have high potential to revolutionize cancer treatment, but as I mentioned before, the most promising treatment approach for cancer and other diseases is a integrative holistic approach for a better outcome of any of these precision medicine procedures, chosen for not only treatment, but, well-being and a quality healthy life of a patient.

#LBS: How do you see the ethical considerations surrounding the use of biotechnology in cancer research, particularly in the context of gene editing and personalized medicine?

Ms Laiqha: Unless deemed mandatory, Biotechnology and gene editing should be carefully considered with patients’ physiological and molecular assessment. Gene editing should always be provided to patients with informed consent and it should be classified into personalized medicine. Gene edited product availability for generalized public use is questionable, since the outcome of the edit may be different in different individuals depending on the immunological state of a specific individual. And this state may differ depending on the persons Age, Gender, Genetic make-up, demographic effect and other physiological factors.

#LBS: What challenges and hurdles do experts in the field of cancer immunotherapy and biotechnology face when translating laboratory discoveries into clinical applications, and how can these challenges be overcome?

Ms Laiqha: Yes, this is a very insightful question which inspired me to invest my academic and laboratory experience into clinical application of this tremendous potential of biotechnology and oncology discoveries. Unless we are able to apply or translate the laboratory discoveries with real positive data, useful for humans, the laboratory discoveries hold very less importance. But, translating the laboratory discoveries in real world need a proper planned vision which brings less risk for the cohort on which it is applied. Scientific advancements should aim to affirm and to improve human life. It is possible sometimes that a scientific discovery will be made that humans will later regret because it has awful consequences. The problem is, we probably would not know in advance and, once the discovery is made, it cannot be undiscovered.

#LBS: In your opinion, what are the key areas of collaboration between academia, industry, and government agencies to accelerate progress in cancer immunotherapy and biotechnology, ultimately improving patient outcomes and reducing the burden of cancer?

Ms Laiqha: For a positive impact on Human being, all the public service organizations when collaborate, the most important point of focus should be patients’ health. And after we have understood human health through the covid period, the integrative medical approach has gained much more importance than any time before. So, as I already mentioned, precision personalized medicine cannot exist as a separate treatment approach without considering the other general aspects of the patient’s overall wellbeing. When planning a research collaboration or a treatment procedure collaboration in immunotherapy and biotechnology, also collaborating with medical experts (Doctors and Healthcare professionals) holds so much importance for keeping the patient’s health as a prime priority. Medical system cannot exist in blocks or divisions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 19.3 million new cases and 10.0 million deaths in 2020. One in five people worldwide develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in eight men and one in eleven women die from the disease. The most common cancers are breast, lung, colon and rectum, prostrate, skin (non-melanoma), and stomach cancers. The analysis estimates that, without further investment in research and prevention, cancer will cost the global economy an accumulated Int$25.2 trillion in health-care costs, lost labor and spent savings over the next 30 years.

Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment and rejuvenated the field of tumor immunology. Regarding the economic burden of cancer treatment, it is a growing concern due to high cancer drug costs relative to the benefits provided to patients treated on a large scale. The cost effectiveness of the cancer immunotherapy is an active area of research.

#LBS: How significant are events like the London Biotechnology Show in mainstreaming, advancing and promoting the advanced therapeutic treatments in the world?

Ms Laiqha: Events like London Biotechnology Show are dedicated to the advancements in the biotechnology industry and shaping the future of a sustainable world by bringing together leading policymakers, thought leaders, investors, industry experts, startups, and other key stakeholders to network, showcase innovative solutions and identify new business opportunities in the field of medicine and healthcare sectors.