July 19, 2024
Hidden Immune Defense Against Cancer Uncovered in New Study

Hidden Immune Defense Against Cancer Uncovered in New Study

A recent study conducted by researchers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has revealed that certain immune cells have the ability to fight cancer, even when the cancer cells lack an important protein that is necessary for the immune system to track down cancer cells.

The team of researchers discovered that the absence of a crucial protein called B2M seems to activate an alternative immune response, which involves natural killer (NK) cells and CD4+ T cells. This finding was observed in both animal studies and patient tumor biopsies, suggesting a potential backup mechanism in the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Immunotherapies, such as immune checkpoint blockade, typically rely on reactivating CD8+ T cells, which are responsible for recognizing tumor antigens through specific surface molecules on cancer cells. The B2M protein plays a key role in this process by helping CD8+ T cells identify the cancer cells. However, the researchers noticed that in cases where the B2M protein is missing or significantly reduced, some patients’ cancers still respond positively to immune checkpoint blockade.

To gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, the researchers used CRISPR/CAS9 technology to edit the genes of mice with melanoma to make them lose the B2M protein, similar to how some cancer cells lose it. They discovered that in these mice, immune cells, specifically CD4+ T cells and NK cells, were still able to fight cancer when given immunotherapy treatment.

Furthermore, a large group of melanoma patients were analyzed, and it was found that tumors lacking proper B2M often exhibited an increased presence of activated NK cells. This suggests that these cells may play a vital role in combating cancer when the usual recognition markers are missing.

This groundbreaking study demonstrates that the immune system can still effectively combat certain types of cancers, such as melanoma, even in the absence of the B2M protein, which renders CD8+ T cells less efficient. By understanding these mechanisms, researchers can potentially develop more effective combination cancer immunotherapy treatments.

Mildred Galvez, an MD/Ph.D. student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA-Charles R. Drew Medical Education Program and co-first author of the study, stated that the unexpected critical role of NK and CD4+ T cells could be another way for the immune system to fight certain types of tumors with the assistance of immune checkpoint blockade drugs. This study highlights how we can naturally exploit the body’s immune system to identify key players in combating cancer and develop strategies to target them effectively.

In conclusion, this study has uncovered a hidden immune defense against cancer by revealing the alternative activation of NK cells and CD4+ T cells in the absence of the B2M protein. These findings offer new insights into the immune system’s ability to recognize and attack cancer cells and may lead to the development of more targeted and efficient cancer immunotherapies.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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