Northwestern Medicine researchers have discovered a "two-faced" group of cells at work in human colon cancer, with opposing functions that can suppress or promote tumor growth. These cells are a subset of T-regulatory (Treg) cells, known to suppress immune responses in healthy individuals
In this previously unknown Treg subset, the presence of the protein RORãt has been shown to differentiate between cancer-protecting and cancer-promoting properties.
The Northwestern team, led by Khashayarsha Khazaie, research associate professor at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, recently reported their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"The subset of Tregs that expand in human colon cancer is different from the Tregs that abound in healthy individuals in their ability to suppress inflammation," said Khazaie. "Since their discovery, Tregs have been assumed to be harmful in cancer based on the knowledge that they suppress immunity. More recent clinical studies have challenged this notion. Our work shows that Tregs, by suppressing inflammation, are normally very protective in cancer; it is rather their switch to the expression of RORãt that is detrimental."
The Northwestern team's work builds on observations, which demonstrated that the transfer of Tregs from healthy mice to mice with colitis or colitis-induced cancer actually protected the mice from colitis and colitis-induced cancer.
After identifying the abnormal Treg subset in mice with hereditary colon cancer, Khazaie and lead author Nichole Blatner, research assistant professor at Lurie Cancer Center, worked with Mary Mulcahy, MD, associate professor of hematology and oncology, radiology, and organ transplantation, and David Bentrem, MD, Harold L. and Margaret N. Method Research Professor in Surgery, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, to look for the same cells in colon cancer patients.
"To our delight, we found the same Treg alterations in cancer patients," said Khazaie.
Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. In 2012, approximately 140,000 Americans were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, while more than 50,000 deaths occurred from either cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"The significance of our discovery became apparent when by inhibiting RORgt in Tregs we were able to protect mice against hereditary colon cancer," Khazaie said.
He notes that several ongoing clinical trials exist based on targeted elimination of all Tregs in cancer patients. However, the discovery of Treg diversity in cancer, and its central role in control of cancer inflammation, may lead to new approaches for therapeutics.
"Tregs are actually very useful in the fight against cancer," he says. "We can do better by targeting RORãt or other molecules that are responsible for the expansion of this Treg subset, instead of indiscriminately eliminating all Tregs. We are very excited about the therapeutic options that targeting specific subsets of Tregs could provide in human solid tumor cancers, and that is our next immediate goal."
Khazaie's team is moving forward with plans to test novel drugs that inhibit RORãt.
This research was made possible by philanthropic support through the Lurie Cancer Center and Steven Rosen, MD, director of the Lurie Cancer Center and the Genevieve E. Teuton Professor of Medicine at the Feinberg School.
In addition to Northwestern University researchers, Khazaie and Blatner collaborated with Fotini Gounari, University of Chicago, and Christophe Benoist, Harvard Medical School, on this discovery.
Marla Paul | EurekAlert!
A new potential biomarker for cancer imaging
05.02.2016 | Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
NIH researchers identify striking genomic signature shared by 5 types of cancer
05.02.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Automobiles increase the mobility of their users. However, their maneuverability is pushed to the limit by cramped inner city conditions. Those who need to...
Advance in biomedical imaging: The University of Würzburg's Biocenter has enhanced fluorescence microscopy to label and visualise up to nine different cell structures simultaneously.
Fluorescence microscopy allows researchers to visualise biomolecules in cells. They label the molecules using fluorescent probes, excite them with light and...
NASA's follow-on to the successful ICESat mission will employ a never-before-flown technique for determining the topography of ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice, but that won't be the only first for this mission.
Slated for launch in 2018, NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) also will carry a 3-D printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK),...
In the last decades, sea level has been rising continuously – about 3.3 mm per year. For reef islands such as the Maldives or the Marshall Islands a sinister picture is being painted evoking the demise of the island states and their cultures. Are the effects of sea-level rise already noticeable on reef islands? Scientists from the ZMT have now answered this question for the Takuu Atoll, a group of Pacific islands, located northeast of Papua New Guinea.
In the last decades, sea level has been rising continuously – about 3.3 mm per year. For reef islands such as the Maldives or the Marshall Islands a sinister...
The ‘Internet of Things’ is growing rapidly. Mobile phones, washing machines and the milk bottle in the fridge: the idea is that minicomputers connected to these will be able to process information, receive and send data. This requires electrical power. Transistors that are capable of switching information with a single electron use far less power than field effect transistors that are commonly used in computers. However, these innovative electronic switches do not yet work at room temperature. Scientists working on the new EU research project ‘Ions4Set’ intend to change this. The program will be launched on February 1. It is coordinated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR).
“Billions of tiny computers will in future communicate with each other via the Internet or locally. Yet power consumption currently remains a great obstacle”,...
02.02.2016 | Event News
26.01.2016 | Event News
26.01.2016 | Event News
05.02.2016 | Life Sciences
05.02.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy