In the past few years, using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, so called immunotherapy treatments has been on major focus and has made many headlines. The challenge is to find and target certain molecules from to cancer cells that most effectively works and how to combat the cancer cells defense systems and defeat them. The goal is to attack cancer tumor and leave the healthy cells to survive, minimizing or eliminating the toxicity, so that the treatment will not lead to any side effect such as vomiting, hair loss. Specialized immune cells are called T-cells that shall attack infected or damaged cells (cancer cells). Cancer cells have certain flags or protein (antigen) that can be identified and targeted by T-cells.
Scientists at University College London published in a new article in Journal Science that there are some different sample proteins called antigens on the surface of the cancer cells that can be targeted by T-cells. These different antigens make the cancer cell look funny. These antigens from cancer cells are different from the antigens that other body cells normally have on their surface.
Patients with lung and skin cancer show normally resistance towards chemotherapy. Over 200 lung and skin cancer patients have been studied to see how many antigens the cancer tumors contained. These antigens were sent to laboratory to be targeted by T-cells.
But the cancer cells have shown to survive the T-cells, why?! The cancer cells defense system on the other hand tries to escape the T-cells to destroy them by sending signals to suppress them, so cancer tumor can survive. The tumor produces a molecule called PD-L1 ‘stop signal’ to suppress the T-cells. This time, the patient are given a drug so the T-cells will be blocked to receive the PD-L1 molecule and refused to be suppressed.
Immunotherapy treatments and chemotherapy together has shown positive effects on cancer patients. 12 of 13 patients have responded well to the immunotherapy.
- Reference — http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2016/03/03/new-immunotherapy-discovery-could-give-treatments-the-precision-they-need/
- By — Maryam Memarpouri, M. Sc.