Ever let dishes pile up while you deal with a crisis? Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have a new strategy to reprogram certain immune cells inside tumors so that they focus on killing cancer cells rather than tidying up after tumor cells die.
The plan involves a process the scavenger immune cells use to digest the dead and dying tumor cells they pick up for disposal. Researchers showed that disabling the process in the immune cells transformed them from housecleaners to cancer fighters.
Doug Green, PhD, St. Jude Department of Immunology chair, and his colleagues. discovered the process, known as LAP, in 2007. He also led this research. (LAP is short for LC3-associated phagocytosis.)
“Lung and other tumors grew more slowly when LAP was disabled in scavenger immune cells called macrophages in mice,” Green said. “The search for compounds that would allow us to regulate the process has begun.”
The research appeared in the journal Cell.