Pancreatic cancer fights off immune attack

August 30, 2007

Scientists of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) and the Heidelberg University Hospitals have discovered that pancreatic cancer attracts regulatory T cells, which suppress the activity of immune cells. In this way, the tumor might escape its destruction by the immune system.

The ability to discriminate between friend and foe or between “self“ and “foreign” is vital for a functioning immune system. There are numerous protective mechanisms at work to save the body’s own tissue from attacks by misguided immune cells. A pivotal role is played by regulatory T cells (Treg cells), which prevent immune reactions against the body’s own structures by suppressing the aggressiveness of particular immune cells called T helper cells.

Malignant tumors actively attract Treg cells and, thus, slow down immune defense to protect themselves against elimination. This is suggested by results just published by Associate Professor Dr. Philipp Beckhove jointly with colleagues from the German Cancer Research Center in collaboration with Professor Jürgen Weitz, Dr. Hubertus Schmitz-Winnenthal and other colleagues from the Heidelberg University Hospitals.

In tissue samples of pancreatic cancer the researchers found a much higher number of Treg cells than in samples obtained from regions of the organ that were not affected by cancer. For other immune cells, such as T helper cells, they found no such differences.

Cells of the immune system, including regulatory T cells, are called to their site of action by specific “address molecules“ on the surface of blood vessel cells (endothelial cells). The presence of address molecules is the signal for immune cells patrolling in the bloodstream to squeeze through the vessel wall in order to enter the adjacent tissue. Beckhove and colleagues have shown that Treg cells easily pass through a layer of endothelial cells isolated from tumor tissue.

If, however, the endothelial cells originate from healthy tissue, then a significantly lower number of Treg cells make their way through the layer of cells. The researchers also discovered why this is so: Endothelial cells from tumor tissue carry significantly more address molecules on their surface than vessel cells from healthy regions of the pancreas. When the investigators made these adresses invisible using specific antibodies, the Treg accumulation in the tumor tissue was stopped.

“Treatment possibilities for pancreatic carcinoma, in particular, are still insufficient. Specific antibodies preventing the accumulation of Treg cells in the tumor and, thus, strengthening immune defense, might be a useful therapeutic option,” says Phillip Beckhove to explain the relevance of these results.

Source: Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum

Explore further: How cytoplasmic DNA triggers inflammation in human cells

Related Stories

How cytoplasmic DNA triggers inflammation in human cells

October 17, 2017
A team led by LMU's Veit Hornung has elucidated the mechanism by which human cells induce inflammation upon detection of cytoplasmic DNA. Notably, the signal network involved differs from that used in the same context in ...

Regulatory T cells harbor HIV/SIV virus during antiviral drug treatment

October 17, 2017
Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified an additional part of the HIV reservoir, immune cells that survive and harbor the virus despite long-term treatment with antiviral drugs.

Corticosteroids aid healing – if the timing is right

October 17, 2017
A corticosteroid can improve the healing of damaged tendons, but it must be given at the right time, according to a new study from Linköping University in Sweden. In rats, the tendon became twice as strong. The results are ...

UB spinoff company For-Robin moves one step closer to human clinical trials

October 17, 2017
Scientists from For-Robin Inc., a University at Buffalo biotechnology spinoff, have published new scientific results showing that the company's cancer-fighting antibody can target, penetrate and kill human tumor cells effectively.

Calcium lets T cells use sugar to multiply and fight infection

October 11, 2017
A calcium signal controls whether immune cells can use the nutrients needed to fuel their multiplication into a cellular army designed to fight invading viruses.

Immune response to ovarian cancer may predict survival, study finds

October 12, 2017
A group of international cancer researchers led by investigators from Mayo Clinic and University of New South Wales Sydney has found that the level of a type of white blood cell, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, present ...

Recommended for you

Drug yields high response rates for lung cancer patients with harsh mutation

October 18, 2017
A targeted therapy resurrected by the Moon Shots Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has produced unprecedented response rates among patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer that carries ...

Possible new immune therapy target in lung cancer

October 18, 2017
A study from Bern University Hospital in collaboration with the University of Bern shows that so-called perivascular-like cells from lung tumors behave abnormally. They not only inadequately support vascular structures, but ...

New bowel cancer drug target discovered

October 17, 2017
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered a new drug target for bowel cancer that is specific to tumour cells and therefore less toxic than conventional therapies.

Many pelvic tumors in women may have common origin—fallopian tubes

October 17, 2017
Most—and possibly all—ovarian cancers start, not in ovaries, but instead in the fallopian tubes attached to them.

Researchers find novel mechanism of resistance to anti-cancer drugs

October 17, 2017
The targeted anti-cancer therapies cetuximab and panitumumab are mainstays of treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, many patients have tumors ...

Using artificial intelligence to improve early breast cancer detection

October 17, 2017
Every year 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the U.S. alone. When cancers are found early, they can often be cured. Mammograms are the best test available, but they're still imperfect and often result in false positive ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.