A turning point in cancer immunology may spark new therapies

The body’s immune system fights cancer. And cancer fights back. For years, researchers have known that tumors can harness healthy white blood cells to enhance their own growth and suppress attacks by the immune system. But it was unclear exactly which types of white blood cells help tumors.

The puzzle has been solved by researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who used a novel strategy to track the contribution of different types of white blood cells. They discovered that the immune suppression is primarily the work of cells called monocytes.

The laboratory findings mark a turning point in cancer immunology and provide the foundation for developing more effective immunotherapies, said Peter Murray, PhD, of St. Jude Infectious Diseases and Immunology.

“We have identified the monocytic cells as the important cell to target—not only in cancer, but possibly for treatment of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel diseases where dampening the immune response could provide relief,” he said.

The results were published in the scientific journal Immunity.

December 17, 2014

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