Nav: Home

Monash research provides insights into why older people respond poorly to cancer treatment

June 19, 2018

It's called the Silver Tsunami - the increased incidence of cancer with ageing, combined with the rapidly ageing population means that the Australian health system needs to prepare for an onslaught of cancer diagnoses.

A new study out of Monash University, published today in the journal Cell Reports, may have found a group of immune cells that increase in number with age but are too worn out to fight off diseases.

Professor Nicole La Gruta and Dr Kylie Quinn, from Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute, have found that a subset of immune cells, called virtual memory T cells, make up around 5% of T cells in young animal models and humans but accumulate significantly with old age and lose the ability to become activated. Importantly, the Monash researchers found that another subset, called true naïve T cells, retain their capacity to mount an immune response but decline in frequency dramatically with increasing age, from 90 per cent to 30 per cent in animal models and humans. These shifts are likely caused by age-related inflammation or "inflamm-ageing".

According to Professor La Gruta, the accumulation of dysfunctional virtual memory T cells, in addition to the loss of true naïve T cells, may explain why older people have reduced immune responses to cancer and vaccines, and why cancer immunotherapy is less successful in the elderly.

"In cancer immunotherapy, a patient's own T cells are stimulated to kill cancer cells and it has been hugely successful for certain forms of cancer. Unfortunately, older patients or people over 65 years of age respond less well than younger ones," Professor La Gruta said.

"This may be because of the differences we see in these T cell subsets in older versus younger patients," she said.

"Now that we understand the impact of ageing on these T cells, we may be able to selectively target them to improve this cutting edge cancer treatment."

According to Prof La Gruta and Dr Quinn, this may mean developing treatments to remove dysfunctional virtual memory T cells or enrich for functional true naïve T cells during cancer immunotherapy or developing treatments that reduce chronic inflammation to prevent immune decline.

"Using these observations, we may be able to tailor cancer immunotherapy specifically for the needs of an older patient's immune system- this is where medicine must head to meet the needs of our ageing society," Professor La Gruta said.

Cancer - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

In 2014, people aged 65 and over were estimated to account for more than:
  • half (58 per cent) of new cancer cases diagnosed
  • three-quarters (77 per cent) of cancer related deaths


Overall, for older Australians, lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer, followed by prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer (women).

Read the full paper in Cell Reports titled Age-Related Decline in Primary CD8+ T Cell Responses is Associated with the Development of Senescence in Virtual Memory CD8+ T Cells.
-end-
About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

Media enquiries:

Tania Ewing
0408 378 422
taniaewing@taniaewing.com

Monash University

Related Cancer Articles:

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.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer 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: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.