A new study suggests that cancer cells can be made easier targets for the body’s immune cells.
Using the immune system to fight cancer is an ever-evolving area of medical science, but one of the most stubborn and least responsive to immunological therapies is metastatic breast cancer. Now scientists have found a way to treat areas surrounding breast cancer tumors that have spread to the bones, leaving these secondary tumors vulnerable to attack by the immune system.
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Conventional immunotherapy drugs, immune checkpoint inhibitors, increase the activity of T cells to fight cancer. But researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WMU) instead used a two-pronged approach to boost the activity of cancer-fighting immune cells.
“Once breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it becomes extremely difficult to treat. Existing treatments can only slow its progression,” says study senior author Sheila A. Stewart, professor of cell biology and physiology at WSL. 70% of patients with metastatic breast cancer have tumors that have spread to the bones. Our study suggests that we can use two therapies—one to sensitize the myeloid tumor microenvironment to immunotherapy and the other to activate T cells—to target these bone metastases in a way that eliminates the tumor, prevents the cancer from returning, and protects against bone loss. tissue in progress.
In their mouse study, the team found that blocking the p38MAPK molecule reprograms the tumor region, making it more vulnerable to attack by immune cells — T cells and macrophages — and signaling molecules called antitumor cytokines. Then, with therapy with an OX40 agonist that binds and activates T cells, the shrunken tumor was destroyed.
Thanks to the increased activity of T-cells and macrophages, a “dream team” to fight cancer has appeared. It also allowed for long-term immunological memory, as macrophages continued to show T cells recognizable fragments of dead tumor cells called cancer antigens, ensuring that the T cells quickly attack and destroy any neoplasms.
Reassuringly, all dual-treatment mice were alive and tumor-free at 80 days post-treatment. Those who received only one of these two treatments had a 50% survival rate at 60 days.
“If we acted on the microenvironment to make it more sensitive to T cells, and at the same time pressed on the T cells, then all mice got rid of metastatic tumors,” Stewart said. “If we returned two weeks later and again subjected mice to those “But the tumor cells, their immune systems were able to clear those cells as well. It looks like their immune systems have developed a long-term memory and know how to attack these returning cancer cells. The mice look like they’ve basically been vaccinated against cancer.”
“We hope that our study will be of interest to the companies that make these drugs so that we can work on the creation of clinical trials in which this strategy will be studied in patients,” Stewart said.
Focus has previously written about salvation for women. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have begun the next step in vaccine research aimed at preventing the most aggressive and lethal form of breast cancer.
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