Tumors hide out from the immune system by mimicking lymph nodes

March 25, 2010, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
The tumor has transformed its outer layer into lymphoid-like tissue to avoid detection by the immune system. Credit: EPFL

A new mechanism explaining how tumors escape the body's natural immune surveillance has recently been discovered at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland. The study shows how tumors can create a tolerant microenviroment and avoid attack by the immune system by mimicking key features of lymph nodes.

The discovery, published in Science and in Science Express, online March 25, 2010, underscores the role of the lymphatic system in and may open up new possibilities for cancer treatment.

"The tricks the body into thinking it is healthy tissue," says lead author Melody Swartz, head of the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering (LLCB) and EPFL professor. Swartz and her team set out to understand how immune tolerance is induced by tumors, allowing them to progress and spread.

The researchers from EPFL concentrated their efforts on a certain protein that is normally present in healthy to attract T cells and program them to perform vital immune functions. They found that some tumors can secrete this protein to transform the outer layer of the tumor into lymphoid-like tissue. This outer layer then attracts and effectively re-programs the T cells to recognize the tumor as friend not foe, resulting in a tumor that goes undetected by the immune system.

Since most tumors progress only if they have escaped the , this new understanding of one mechanism by which the tumor can bypasses or hides from immune defenses is an important step towards future cancer therapies. "The finding that tumors can attract naďve and regulatory T cells and educate them has important implications for tumor immunotherapy," says Jacqui Shields, from LLCB. The study also opens up potential novel areas of research focusing on the relationship between lymphatic systems and cancer research. According to Shields, the concept that tumors mimic lymphoid tissue to alter the host's immune response represents a new understanding of tumors' interactions with the lymphatic system.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

NEJM reports positive results for larotrectinib against TRK-fusion cancer

February 22, 2018
In 2013, the labs of University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Robert C. Doebele, MD, PhD, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigator Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD reported in Nature Medicine the presence of TRK gene ...

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

New therapeutic gel shows promise against cancerous tumors

February 21, 2018
Scientists at the UNC School of Medicine and NC State have created an injectable gel-like scaffold that can hold combination chemo-immunotherapeutic drugs and deliver them locally to tumors in a sequential manner. The results ...

Five novel genetic changes linked to pancreatic cancer risk

February 21, 2018
In what is believed to be the largest pancreatic cancer genome-wide association study to date, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, and collaborators from over 80 other ...

Similarities found in cancer initiation in kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas

February 21, 2018
Recent research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrated that mature cells in the stomach sometimes revert back to behaving like rapidly dividing stem cells. Now, the researchers have found that ...

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.