Reprogramming immune cells as an effective cancer killer
A Canadian research team has shown that modified immune cells that kill cancerous tumors can be used as a treatment for people with late-stage cancer. The altered metabolism enables the killer cells of the immune system to survive better inside the tumor tissues and thus kill the cancer cells more effectively.
Researchers led by Professor Ali Ashkar and Sophie Poznansky from McMaster University in Canada have discovered that trained immune cells are highly effective in killing cancer cells. A change in the metabolism of natural killer (NK) cells enabled immune cells to overcome defenses within tumors. In this way, they were able to destroy cancer cells from advanced ovarian and lung tumors. The results were recently published in the popular magazine.Cell metabolism” Foot.
A hurdle in cancer immunotherapy
In the past decade, cancer immunotherapy has had enormous curative effects in people with leukemia. However, the immunosuppressive conditions within solid tumors, whose violent growth leads to starvation of surrounding healthy tissues, have so far been a formidable obstacle to immune cell therapies.
Surrounding tumors suppress immune cells
“In this study, we discovered that the metabolism or energy complex in natural killer cells is paralyzed due to tumors, which leads to the natural killer cells undergoing an energy crisis and losing their function in killing the tumor,” explains lead author Poznanski in a press release about the study results.
“With this understanding, we were able to reverse the dysfunction in the natural killer cells by reconfiguring the current metabolic drug that reproduced them from energy,” Poznansky added.
Metabolism mimics cancer cells
The research work also clarified the decades-old question of how cancer cells can suppress natural killer cells. According to the slogan, “To defeat your enemy, you have to think like your enemy,” researchers have reprogrammed the metabolism of killer cells in a way that mimics the metabolism of cancer cells. Then the modified natural killer cells were better able to adapt to the tumor environment.
Defeat the enemy with their weapons
“We just hoped that the modified NK cells would be more resistant to tumor suppression,” says Professor Ashkar. Working group expectations were exceeded: After reprogramming, immune cells function better inside tumors than outside. They have exploited the anti-tumor environment to their advantage.
“This is the first report of an immune anti-tumor cell that uses anti-tumor resistance to its own advantage,” Ashkar said. This discovery could represent a paradigm shift in cancer immunotherapy.
To date, only natural killer cell immunotherapy has been used for leukemia
So far, natural killer cells have proven themselves only against leukemia. The professor stresses that “natural killer cells that have been reprogrammed and trained may mean that people with incurable cancer have a safe and effective treatment option.” Survival rates for lung and ovarian cancer have remained low for the past 30 years. This can change with new knowledge.
Hardly any side effects are known
Additionally, the researchers indicate that NK cell immunotherapies have so far been proven safe. Few side effects are known. Most patients have no side effects whatsoever.
“This could have real potential for treating ovarian cancer, lung cancer and other poorly diagnosed tumors,” adds Hal Herty, professor of oncology from the study team. Ovarian cancer in particular is one of the most common immunosuppressive tumors, and a major reason why survival rates have not improved.
The therapeutic effects observed in preclinical models in this study represent a major advance, according to Hurt. “The next step is to translate this promising treatment into clinical trials in patients, and we plan to start trials soon to demonstrate this approach in patients for testing with recurrent ovarian cancer,” Professor Hertie summarizes. (Fb)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been examined by medical professionals.
Diploma Editor (FH) Volker Plasik
- Sophie M. Poznanski Kanwaldeep Singh, Tyrah M. Ritchie et al .: Metabolic flexibility determines the functional fate of human NK cells in the tumor microenvironment; In: Cell Metabolism, 2021, cell.com
- McMaster scientists discovered that trained immune cells are highly effective against cancer (veröffentlicht: 15.04. 2021), eurekalert.org
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-medication. He cannot replace a visit to the doctor.
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