Scientists find molecule in immune system that could help treat dangerous skin cancer

July 8, 2012, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have made a groundbreaking discovery that will shape the future of melanoma therapy. The team, led by Thomas S. Kupper, MD, chair of the BWH Department of Dermatology, and Rahul Purwar, PhD, found that high expression of a cell-signaling molecule, known as interleukin-9, in immune cells inhibits melanoma growth.

Their findings will be published online in the July 8, 2012 issue of Nature Medicine.

After observing mice without genes responsible for development of an immune cell called T helper cell 17 (TH17), researchers found that these mice had significant resistance to melanoma tumor growth, suggesting that blockade of the TH17 favored tumor inhibition. The researchers also noticed that the mice expressed high amounts of interleukin-9.

"These were unexpected results, which led us to examine a possible contribution of interleukin-9 to suppression." said Purwar.

The researchers next treated melanoma-bearing mice with T helper cell 9 (TH9), an immune cell that produces interleukin-9. They saw that these mice also had a profound resistance to melanoma growth. This is the first reported finding showing an anti-tumor effect of TH9 cells.

Moreover, the researchers were able to detect TH9 cells in both normal human blood and skin, specifically in skin-resident memory and memory T cells in . In contrast, TH9 cells were either absent or present at very low levels in human melanoma. This new finding paves the way for future studies that will assess the role of interleukin-9 and TH9 cells in therapy.

"Immunotherapy of cancer is coming of age, and there have been exciting recent results in patients with melanoma treated with drugs that stimulate the immune system," said Kupper. "We hope that our results will also translate to the treatment of melanoma patients, but much work still needs to be done."

According to the researchers, other cell-signaling molecules have been used in treating melanoma; however, this study is the first to investigate the role of interleukin-9 in melanoma tumor immunity.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012, there will be more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma in the United States and 9,180 deaths. Melanoma is curable if recognized and treated early.

Explore further: Study reveals trigger that may speed melanoma growth

Related Stories

Study reveals trigger that may speed melanoma growth

March 28, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Growth of the deadly skin cancer melanoma may be triggered by the immune system turning on itself, according to a new study that also identified the mechanism that causes this to happen.

Using Viagra to combat malignant melanoma

November 8, 2011
Many tumors cause chronic inflammations, which, in their turn, suppress specific attacks against the tumor by the immune system. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center and Medical Faculty Mannheim at Heidelberg University ...

Researchers identify key role of microRNAs in melanoma metastasis

July 11, 2011
Researchers at the NYU Cancer Institute, an NCI-designated cancer center at NYU Langone Medical Center, identified for the first time the key role specific microRNAs (miRNAs) play in melanoma metastasis to simultaneously ...

Recommended for you

Research debunks 'myth' that strenuous exercise suppresses the immune system

April 20, 2018
New research overturns a myth that has persisted for nearly four decades - that competing in endurance sports, like this weekend's London Marathon, suppresses the body's immune system and makes competitors more susceptible ...

Immune diversity among the KhoeSan population

April 20, 2018
A new study of the KhoeSan of Southern Africa has improved the understanding of immune diversity among the oldest surviving indigenous population in the world.

Psoriasis treated with compound derived from immune cells

April 18, 2018
A compound derived from immune cells treats psoriasis in mice and holds promise for other autoimmune diseases, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Researchers uncover origin of virus-fighting plasma B cells

April 18, 2018
Plasma B cells, which move through the body releasing antibodies, are an important component of the body's fight against viral infections and other invaders. They are relatively rare, however, and increasing their ranks is ...

Your immune system holds the line against repeat invaders, thanks to this molecule

April 17, 2018
Memory T cells are a critical element of our immune system's historical archive. To prevent repeat infections, these cells retain a record of germs they've fought before.

New disease model to facilitate development of ALS and MS therapies

April 17, 2018
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed a new disease model for neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and MS that can be used to develop new immunotherapies. The model is described in a publication ...

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.