Molecular 'magnets' could improve cancer immunotherapy

February 08, 2018

Chemicals that attract specialised immune cells toward tumours could be used to develop better immunotherapies for cancer patients, according to new research published in Cell.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered that immune cells called Natural Killer cells accumulate in tumours and release chemicals that attract specialised dendritic cells (cDC1) - white blood cells known for triggering anti-cancer immune responses - to the tumour.

Genes associated with Natural Killer cells and cDC1 correlated with cancer patient survival in a dataset of over 2,500 patients with skin, breast, neck and lung cancers.* A similar correlation was seen in an independent group of breast cancer patients, with a particularly positive outcome for women with triple negative breast cancer, which typically has a poor prognosis.**

"Our findings have given us a renewed appreciation of the importance of Natural Killer cells and cDC1 in the immune response against cancer," says Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, Senior Group Leader at the Crick, who led the study. "It's still early days, but attracting more cDC1 to tumours could be the basis of a new immunotherapy for cancer patients."

The team also showed that prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), a molecule produced by some cancer cells, suppresses Natural Killer cell activity and reduces the responsiveness of cDC1 to the chemical attractants. This suggests that blocking PGE2 with aspirin might help boost the effectiveness of immunotherapies by restoring cDC1 levels in tumours.

"Now that we know a bit better how this key anti-cancer response works, we can look at identifying other ways in which cancers get around it," says Caetano. "This understanding will ultimately help us to develop new immunotherapy approaches to help more patients."

Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist, said: "This interesting research reveals more about the way the body's immune system interacts with cancer, exposing one way in which cancer can avoid attack.

"Studies like this highlight the complexity of this relationship and may reveal another way in which the immune system can be harnessed to treat cancer. It's vital that work continues to help make immunotherapies more effective and beneficial to more patients."
-end-
The paper ' NK cells stimulate recruitment of cDC1 into the tumor microenvironment promoting cancer immune control' is published in Cell.

*Data from The Cancer Genome Atlas

**Data from the KM Plotter Database

The Francis Crick Institute

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.