Can immune cells from a healthy donor assist in recognising and combating another’s cancer?
A new proof of principle study has shown that immune cells from a healthy individual can respond to cells with the mutated DNA found in someone else’s cancer. After these activated immune cells were analysed and taken apart, targeting components can be infused into the cancer patient’s own immune system to kick-start a response.
Immunotherapy already works on a similar principle, removing the inhibitory blocks that cancer uses to evade its host’s immune cells, or editing new immune cells to target specific cancers. This new method is perhaps a ‘shortcut’, copying from healthy immune system activity when a patient’s own system fails to eradicate or detect their cancer.
“We are currently exploring high-throughput methods to identify the neoantigens that the T cells can “see” on the cancer and isolate the responding cells. But the results showing that we can obtain cancer-specific immunity from the blood of healthy individuals are already very promising”
When scientists analysed and took a sample of melanoma populations from different patients, they discovered they were displaying many new protein tags that their host’s immune cells failed to notice and target accordingly. These same melanoma tags however, were noticed by immune cells from another person – suggesting that healthy donors can teach us new ways of targeting, and eradicating someone else’s cancer.
“In a way, our findings show that the immune response in cancer patients can be strengthened; there is more on the cancer cells that makes them foreign that we can exploit. One way we consider doing this is finding the right donor T cells to match these neoantigens. The receptor that is used by these donor T-cells can then be used to genetically modify the patient’s own T cells so these will be able to detect the cancer cells”
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