Study reveals that chemotherapy works in an unexpected way

April 4, 2013, Cell Press

It's generally thought that anticancer chemotherapies work like antibiotics do, by directly killing off what's harmful. But new research published online on April 4 in the Cell Press journal Immunity shows that effective chemotherapies actually work by mobilizing the body's own immune cells to fight cancer. Researchers found that chemo-treated dying tumors secrete a factor that attracts certain immune cells, which then ingest tumor proteins and present them on their surfaces as alert signals that an invader is present. This new understanding of how chemotherapy works with our immune systems could prompt new tactics for treating cancer.

"Successful chemotherapeutics convert the tumor into a , hence mobilizing the host's immune system against the cancer," explains senior author Dr. Guido Kroemer, of the Institut Gustave Roussy, in France.

Dr. Kroemer and his colleagues found that when chemotherapy kills and bursts open , the cells release a factor called ATP. The factor recruits to the tumor site, where they are educated to acquire their function—namely, to ingest and present tumor proteins on their surfaces. The researchers found that when these trained immune cells are blocked, chemotherapy (specifically, anthracyclines) cannot efficiently reduce the growth of tumors in mice. Also, when these trained immune cells are injected into other mice, the mice can fight off cancer cells that are subsequently injected.

The findings point to a new strategy to improve cancer treatments. "Anticancer therapies and immunotherapies might be combined in a way to optimize the local recruitment and function of immune cells—for instance, by increasing extracellular ATP levels—with the goal of boosting the chemotherapy-induced anticancer immune response," says Dr. Kroemer. Also, measuring the recruitment of immune cells to tumor sites after chemotherapy might help predict how well a patient's cancer will respond to the treatment.

Explore further: Immune-response genes affecting breast tumor eradication

More information: Immunity, Ma et al.: "Anticancer chemotherapy induced intratumoral recruitment and differentiation of antigen presenting cells." dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2013.03.003

Related Stories

Immune-response genes affecting breast tumor eradication

May 3, 2012
Breast cancer patients whose tumors express high levels of genes related to immune response are more likely to have their tumor completely eradicated by pre-operative chemotherapy compared to patients with low expression ...

Mechanism for esophageal cancer uncovered

April 11, 2011
A gene thought to be associated with cancer development can be a tumor suppressor gene in mice, researchers have discovered. Understanding which genes are involved in spreading cancer could lead to future therapies.

Tumor environment keeps tumor-fighting T cells away

September 19, 2011
Tumors have an arsenal of tricks to help them sidestep the immune system. A study published on September 19 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine reveals a new trick -- the ability to keep tumor-fighting T cells out by ...

Studies show that pancreatic cancer can run but not always hide from the immune system

June 11, 2012
A pair of recent studies describes how pancreatic cancer cells produce a protein that attracts the body's immune cells and tricks them into helping cancer cells grow. The research, published by Cell Press in the June 12th ...

Cisplatin-resistant cancer cells sensitive to experimental anticancer drugs, PARP inhibitors

April 3, 2013
Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors may be a novel treatment strategy for patients with cancer that has become resistant to the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin, according to data from a preclinical study published ...

Recommended for you

Genomics reveals key macrophages' involvement in systemic sclerosis

January 18, 2018
A new international study has made an important discovery about the key role of macrophages, a type of immune cell, in systemic sclerosis (SSc), a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

First vaccine developed against grass pollen allergy

January 18, 2018
Around 400 million people worldwide suffer in some form or other from a grass pollen allergy (rhinitis), with the usual symptoms of runny nose, cough and severe breathing problems. In collaboration with the Viennese firm ...

Researchers discover key driver of atopic dermatitis

January 17, 2018
Severe eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is driven by an allergic reaction. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute reveal an important player that promotes ...

Who might benefit from immunotherapy? New study suggests possible marker

January 16, 2018
While immunotherapy has made a big impact on cancer treatment, the fact remains that only about a quarter of patients respond to these treatments.

Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system

January 16, 2018
system, which enables these deadly skin cancers to grow and spread.

How the immune system's key organ regenerates itself

January 15, 2018
With advances in cancer immunotherapy splashing across headlines, the immune system's powerful cancer assassins—T cells—have become dinner-table conversation. But hiding in plain sight behind that "T" is the organ from ...

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.