Many cancer patients generate immune cells capable of specifically attacking their tumors, but the cells rarely do, in fact, target a patients cancer. What prevents these potentially helpful cells from taking action? And is there anything that might be done to unleash them?
The attack cells - known as cytolytic T cells - are prevented from acting by a second set of immune cells called regulatory T cells, according to a new study from investigators at The Wistar Institute. The research also shows that the regulatory T cells communicate their message of restraint to the cytolytic T cells at a distance, via a messenger chemical called TGF-beta. A report on the study appears in the September 15 issue of Cancer Research.
Previous work has focused on ways to stimulate the cytolytic T cells to act, but the new study suggests that other approaches to bringing them into the battle against cancer might be more effective. For example, a drug that inactivates the regulatory T cells or that blocks the TGF-beta chemical message they send might free the cytolytic T cells to attack a patients tumor.
Franklin Hoke | EurekAlert!
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