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Scientists find to approach in T-cell therapy to treat cancer

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The approach called adoptive T-cell therapy involves removing immune cells from the body and genetically arming them to fight cancer.

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June 8 (UPI) -- German researchers have developed a way to arm immune cells with a new surface molecule in an effort to combat difficult to treat cancers.

Researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany armed immune cells with a new surface molecule causing the cells to respond particularly aggressively when it encounters a protein that tumors actually use to camouflage themselves from the immune system.

They did this by using adoptive T-cell therapy of removing immune cells from the body and genetically arms them by giving them new structures on the surface that accurately lead them to cancer cells.

"Because cancer emerges from the body's own cells, it is usually difficult for the immune system to distinguish good cells from bad ones," Dr. Elfriede Nößner, head of the Tissue Control of Immunocytes Research Group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, said in a press release. "But there are ways to support the immune system in recognizing and combating cancer cells."

Researchers used a new surface molecule made up of two halves, the outside binds to the PD-L1 molecule tumor cells form in order to stop the attacking immune cells. Inside of the T-cells, the binding does not activate a sleep mode and instead activates the T-cell's killer program to make it more aggressive.

The study showed that T-cells armed with a new surface molecule were more effective at proliferating tumors and destroying tumor cells.

"If that step succeeds, the approach would enlarge the arsenal of T-cells suitable for adoptive T-cell therapy," Elfriede Nößner said. "This could not only make the treatment more effective but would allow it to be used in more patients in the framework of personalized medicine."

The study was published in June in Cancer Research.


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