In an article appearing in a special issue of the Journal of Neuro-oncology, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centers Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute describe a complex cell-level process that allows malignant brain tumors to protect themselves by damaging the thymus, rapidly degrading the immune system. In a second article, Institute scientists identify a molecular mechanism that causes cell death of cancer-fighting lymphocytes as they infiltrate a brain tumor.
"We are dissecting and better understanding the mechanisms that enable tumors to evade destruction by the immune system. This gives us new tools in our fight against brain cancer, to essentially correct these deficits and further enhance the ability of the immune system, not only to detect but also to destroy brain tumors," said Keith L. Black, M.D., director of the Institute, Cedars-Sinais Division of Neurosurgery and the Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program.
In an animal study, researchers found that intracranial gliomas – aggressive brain tumors – damage the thymus, the gland responsible for the development and potency of the immune systems T cells. As the thymus shrinks and its normal structure becomes distorted, many of the thymocytes – the "immature" cells destined to become functional T cells potentially capable of destroying a variety of antigens – undergo a process that weakens and kills them.
Sandra Van | EurekAlert!
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