Nav: Home

Cancer drugs could target autoimmune diseases

June 09, 2016

Drugs currently being trialled in cancer patients have been used to successfully target an autoimmune condition in mice at UCL and King's College London.

The study, published in Cell Reports, involved giving cancer drugs to mice and inducing uveitis, an incurable autoimmune eye condition responsible for 1 in every 10 cases of visual impairment in the UK*. The condition was significantly less severe in mice given the cancer drugs. Current treatment options are limited and can cause further visual problems including cataracts.

"We tested this approach on the uveitis model as a proof of principle, but it should also be applicable to other autoimmune conditions," says co-senior author Dr Richard Jenner (UCL Cancer Institute). "The drugs that we used in this study would be too toxic for long term use in the bloodstream, so we are now hoping to test more localised approaches such as eye drops to treat uveitis."

The team tested the drugs on uveitis after discovering that a genetic 'key' involved in cancer cell growth is also important for immune cells. Using whole-genome sequencing, they found that immune cells needed this 'key' to become specialised T helper cells. Although these cells are necessary to clear infection by viruses and bacteria, in autoimmune conditions they turn on healthy tissue, causing damage and inflammation.

"Blocking this genetic key, called P-TEFb, prevents the immune system from mobilising such an aggressive response," explains Dr Jenner "P-TEFb is important for a lot of cellular processes, and drives uncontrolled growth in cancer cells. A variety of drugs that target this pathway are currently undergoing trials for a range of cancers, and we hope to adapt these to target autoimmune conditions in future.

"This work is a great example of how knowledge of the human genome sequence can lead to valuable insights into human diseases. It was only by looking across the whole human genome that we were able to identify the function of P-TEFb in the immune system, offering potential new treatments for autoimmune conditions."

The mouse model for uveitis was developed by Dr Virginia Calder (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology), allowing the team to test their genomic findings.

"At the moment, the main treatments for non-infectious uveitis are steroids or the immunosuppressant cyclosporine," explains Dr Calder. "Although they can be effective in dampening the inflammation, these drugs can have serious side-effects in the eye including cataract formation and glaucoma. There is therefore a need for localised treatments to tackle the specific immune pathways involved, and this work presents promising new treatment options using existing drugs."
-end-
Co-senior author Professor Graham Lord, Director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital and King's College London, says: "We are currently investigating the potential of using this treatment in a number of other auto-inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, which affects around 146,000 people in the UK each year. If we can show that by targeting this specific pathway, we can cure other autoimmune diseases, then the potential for this treatment to translate through to significant patient impact is very high."

*Source NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/uveitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

University College London

Related Immune System Articles:

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.
Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.
How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.
Immune system upgrade
Theoretically, our immune system could detect and kill cancer cells.
Using the immune system as a defence against cancer
Research published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found that a naturally occurring molecule and a component of the immune system that can successfully target and kill cancer cells, can also encourage immunity against cancer resurgence.
First impressions go a long way in the immune system
An algorithm that predicts the immune response to a pathogen could lead to early diagnosis for such diseases as tuberculosis
Filming how our immune system kill bacteria
To kill bacteria in the blood, our immune system relies on nanomachines that can open deadly holes in their targets.
Putting the break on our immune system's response
Researchers have discovered how a tiny molecule known as miR-132 acts as a 'handbrake' on our immune system -- helping us fight infection.
Decoding the human immune system
For the first time ever, researchers are comprehensively sequencing the human immune system, which is billions of times larger than the human genome.
Masterswitch discovered in body's immune system
Scientists have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system with potentially major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans.
More Immune System News and Immune System Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.