Wednesday January 22, 2020

Subset of Immune Cells May Kill Cancerous Cells: Study

Study finds 'helper' cells that can kill cancerous tumours

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Cancerous cells
Researchers have identified how a subset of immune cells are activated to kill cancerous cells, which could hold the key to new powerful therapies against cancer. Pixabay

In a major breakthrough, researchers have identified how a subset of immune cells are activated to kill cancerous cells, which could hold the key to new powerful therapies against cancer.

This new study built on previous research which found that following immunotherapy some CD4+ T cells, traditionally thought to be ‘helper’ and ‘regulator’ immune cells, become cytotoxic and directly engage with and kill cancer cells.

Published in the journal Immunity, the research team from University College London, examined the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning this activity, as part of an experimental study of immunotherapy in mice.

Researchers found that IL-2, a ‘growth factor’ for T cells and the ‘transcription factor’ Blimp-1 are responsible for initiating potent killer activity in CD4+ T cells within cancerous tumours.

“We knew these immune cells had the ability to proactively kill cancer cells with incredible potency, but to maximise their potential, we needed to know how this mechanism was activated,” said study co-lead author Sergio Quezada.

cancerous
“We knew these immune cells had the ability to proactively kill cancerous cells with incredible potency, but to maximise their potential, we needed to know how this mechanism was activated,” said study co-lead author Sergio Quezada. Pixabay

“Our discovery provides the evidence and rationale for utilising Blimp-1 to maximise the anti-tumour activity of CD4+ T cells,” Quezada added.

Work is now underway in our lab to develop new personalised cell therapies where the activity of Blimp-1 can be maxed up to drive potent tumour control, the researchers said.

According to the study, T cells are a subset of lymphocytes (white blood cells), which play a key role in the body’s immune response. In immunotherapy T cells are modified and used to attack cancer.

These cells move around our bodies, looking for infected cells and killing them.

However, T cells do not recognise most cancers, since cancers develop from our own tissues and appear normal to most T cells, the research said.

The main challenge with T cell immunotherapy approaches is to find ways to direct T cells to attack cancer cells.

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“Cellular therapies have only recently entered the mainstream in terms of clinical application. Our findings broaden our understanding of the regulators of T cell differentiation, illuminating new elements that might be targeted to enhance therapeutic efficacy,” said study researcher Karl Peggs from the University College London in UK.

According to the researchers, the study like this helps scientists understand better the intricacies of our immune system and how it can be utilised to kill cancer cells. (IANS)

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Males Have Higher Risk of Suffering from Cancer: Study

Researchers explain why cancer risk is higher in males

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Cancer
DNA differences between men and women may explain why cancer risk is higher in males. Pixabay

DNA differences between men and women may explain why cancer risk is higher in males, according to a new study.

In findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers have reported that loss of function in certain genes of the sex-determining Y chromosome, which is present only in men, may cause them to have an elevated risk for cancer.

Using data from 9,000 individuals, the researchers studied Y-chromosome gene function in patients with various types of cancer. The findings showed that cancer risk increases with loss of function of six key Y-chromosome genes in various types of cells.

“Recent studies have shown that complete loss of the Y chromosome, which is essential to foetal sex differentiation, occurs, with aging, in the cells of some men,” said study author Juan Ramon Gonzalez from Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

Cancer DNA
Suppression of the Y chromosome can occur as a result of loss of function in the chromosome. Pixabay

“Although the loss of the Y chromosome has previously been associated with higher incidence of cancer, the causes of this association are poorly understood,” Gonzalez added.

These six Y-chromosome genes are involved in cell-cycle regulation, the failure of which can lead to tumour development.

According to the study, understanding the biological differences between men and women in cancer is crucial for the development of personalised lines of treatment and prevention.

“Men are not only at higher risk of cancer than women, they also face a worse prognosis. In fact, these differences partially account for the lower life expectancy of men,” Gonzalez added.

According to the researchers, although men may be more exposed to carcinogens due to the type of work they do and at higher risk because they are less likely to consult a doctor, the study has shown that there are also biological factors that increase cancer risk among men.

“In fact, it seems that one of these factors can be found in the Y chromosome, the very essence of maleness,” said study lead author Alejandro Caceres.

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Suppression of the Y chromosome can occur as a result of loss of function in the chromosome, which would explain previous findings, or as a result of other mechanisms mediated by the chemical (epigenetic) inactivation of the same regions, the research said.

“Certain environmental exposures, for example to tobacco or other harmful substances, could affect chromosome function and lead to epigenetic modifications,” Gonzalez said. (IANS)