Tackling tumours using the immune cells of someone else: this is what researchers of a new study have successfully demonstrated. The paper is published in the journal Science.
Cancer immunotherapy has grown into a broad field of research, whereby scientists endeavour to make the immune system of cancer patients to fight the disease. They have, thus, been multiplying their efforts in finding ways and means to curb or undo cancer propagation. A recent endeavour has brought another twist (a positive one!) to this field: using the immune cells of another person when the patient’s own immune system cannot respond adequately to tumours.
This is based on previous knowledge entailing how the immune system is compromised in some cancer patients because their immune cells are unable to recognise the tumours. Normally, T cells of the immune system will spot aberrant cells (cancer ones), and kill them – this system does not work well in some patients. Therefore, the scientists from Netherlands Cancer Institute and University of Oslo have taken this huge step in cancer research.
They caused healthy immune cells (from healthy individuals) to generate an immune response by inserting mutated DNA from cancer into the former. Thereafter, the scientists added the components of the donor immune cells into those of cancer patients. Thus, the immune cells of the latter were able to identify the cancer cells thanks to the “borrowed immune system”, as described by study-authors Ton Schumacher and Johanna Olweus.
Schumacher explains that the immunity of cancer patients can be strengthened through this method. His colleague, Olweus, adds that their findings show that “the principle of outsourcing cancer immunity to a donor is sound“. They do add that additional work has to be done before this study can be put to practical use to benefit cancer patients; the team is currently working on ways to make the T cells able to ‘see’ the targeted cancer cells better.