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New immunotherapy could herald better cancer treatments

Tuesday November 24th 2020

A new type of immunotherapy has been developed that could pave the way for more cancer treatment options, it was revealed last night (22 November 2020).

A study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the new immunotherapy has specific antibodies that activate the macrophages to support the immune system and kill the cancer cells.

NK cells, another important cell of the immune system, are primarily activated by this new immunotherapy to work alongside the T cells to kill the tumour, as opposed to existing immunotherapies, in which only the T cells are activated.

The study, which was carried out with a team from Rockefeller University in New York, USA, was initially a modelling study before the researchers applied their discovery to human skin tumours to assay the transferability of their results.

Professor Mikael Karlsson, the study's last author from the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet, said the specific antibodies trigger the human macrophages, which in turn activate the NK cells to kill the cancer cells, indicating that the new immunotherapy activates a different part of the immune system compared to previous therapies.

“It also turns out that when the NK cells are activated by macrophages, their cancer-fighting ability is hugely effective,” he said.

“The teamwork between the NK and T cells boosts their efficacy, which can help make more types of cancer treatable in the future,” he added.

Eisinger S, Sarhan D, Boura VF et al. Targeting a scavenger receptor on tumor-associated macrophages activates tumor cell killing by NK cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 23 November 2020.

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Pharmaceuticals

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