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!
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine