Immune Cells can Fight Brain Cancer
A new study describes how tumor-promoting immune cells can be used to combat an aggressive, sometimes fatal type of brain cancer. The research entails ‘reprogramming’ these cells to transform from shielding to destroying cancerous brain tumours. Some of the mice in the study not only rejected the brain tumours, but also gained long-term immunity to them, according to the researchers.
The research, which was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and other Boston-area research institutions, focused on glioblastomas, a form of aggressive and deadly cancer that is notoriously resistant to treatment. Immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs), according to the researchers, aren’t an effective treatment for this type of cancer.
How’s it Possible?
The explanation for this is that, despite the fact that ICBs cause inactive immune cells to attack cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue mostly unaffected, glioblastomas avoid treatment by forming a tumour microenvironment, which takes over immune cells, proteins, and blood vessels and uses them to promote tumour growth.
As a result, immune cells that would invade the tumour are blocked, while regulatory T-cells (Tregs), immune cells that encourage tumour development, are allowed in. The researchers discovered that they could ‘reprogram’ these accumulated Tregs in the cancerous tumour to attack the cancer cells they had previously protected.
Mice Tested for it
Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D., one of the researchers behind the new study said that this approach does not rely on additional mobilisation of anti-tumor immune cells, which is another common obstacle to effective immunotherapy in brain tumours, since Tregs already present in these tumours can be reprogrammed.
The study used mice with human glioblastomas, paving the way for possible treatments for this lethal type of brain cancer in people.