A research team at Cardiff University in Wales is conducting new and important immunotherapy research. They are attempting to determine more ways that a patient’s own immune cells can destroy cancer. If they are successful, more kinds of cancer can be fought and possible cured.
Molecules Help in Immunotherapy
The scientists first found a molecule called L-selectin. The molecule exists on human T-cells. T-cells are the cells that fight against disease in the body; they are part of the immune system. The researchers found that adding more L-selectin molecules to the T-cells made them better at fighting cancerous cells and tumors. This is a type of immunotherapy, a kind of cancer treatment that fights disease with the help of the immune system.
Why the Research is Important
Ann Ager, one of the lead researchers on the project, was recently interviewed about this new type of cancer treatment. Ager works at Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity Research Institute. She said that the results they are seeing with this new treatment are very encouraging. It appears that this type of immunotherapy could be used to fight most types of cancer. This is a huge step forward, since this type of immunotherapy only hunts cancer cells and does not hurt healthy cells.
To this point, immunotherapy that uses L-selectin and T-cells has only been used in clinical trials. It has also only been used to treat patients with leukemia, a kind of blood cancer. In patients with leukemia, the cancer cells are circulating in the blood and moving throughout the body. This means it is easier for T-cells to find and destroy these kinds of cancer.
The Challenges Ahead
But this also means that it has been much more difficult for this kind of immunotherapy to treat tumors that are solid and do not have cancerous cells flowing through the body. The blood flow to solid tumors is not very good. The cancer has also damaged the surrounding cells, so the blood vessels around them are not fully developed.
Ager says that the next step is to find out whether increasing L-selectin on T-cells can be used to find solid tumors more consistently. L-selectin is how tumors find the cancer cells. If increasing them could help T-cells find the solid tumors more often, then there would be a better chance of the immune system destroying those cells.
Ager also said that she was surprised by the results of their experiments. While L-selectin was important in finding the cancerous cells, it also appeared to better activate the T-cells in the fight against the tumor. The T-cells continued to grow in numbers for over a week after finding the tumor, which made it very tough for the tumor to grow.
A doctor from King’s College in London named John Maher says that this research could be very important in the fight against cancer. By showing how important L-selectin can be, this team could allow it to become a potential breakthrough for all different types of immunotherapy. The results of this study were published in the medical journal Frontiers in Immunology.