Cancer can be combated with reprogrammed macrophage cells

May 20, 2016 by Heléne Almqvist

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have generated antibodies that reprogramme a type of macrophage cell in the tumour, making the immune system better able to recognise and kill tumour cells. The study, which is published in the journal Cell Reports, could lead to a new therapy and provide a potentially important diagnostic tool for breast cancer and malignant melanoma.

Immunotherapy, in which the immune system is enhanced in order to kill , especially the kind designed to activate the immune system, is changing the way we treat cancer. Unlike other forms of cancer therapy, immunotherapy targets not the tumour itself but specific cells in the immune system to unleash the ability of the immune system to kill the tumour.

"We've found a new way of using antibodies for immunotherapy that activates immune cells, called macrophages, in the tumour," says research team member Mikael Karlsson at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology. "This makes it easier for the immune system to recognise the tumour and animal studies of three different cancers have given promising results."

In 2013, the leading scientific journal Science called cancer immunotherapy the year's most groundbreaking advancement. Antibodies that increase the ability of T-cells to kill tumour cells have proved particularly effective and created new opportunities for treating previously untreatable cancer.

Not sufficiently effective

However, for some patients, T-cell modified immunotherapy has not been sufficiently effective, as some tumours still manage to conceal themselves from the immune system by emitting signals that prevent the immune cells from recognising them. Another reason for the occasional failure of the therapy is that tumours do not trigger as strong an as, for example, infections do.

For the present study, the researchers focused on macrophages, immune cells whose normal function is to combat infection. Some macrophages, however, affect their environment in the in a way that makes it easier for cancer cells to survive and spread. Commonly dominant in tumours is a type of macrophage that prevents T-cells and other from recognising and killing cancer cells.

Stopped the tumours

The researchers managed to reprogramme and activate these macrophages by using an antibody targeted at a protein on their cell surface, which stopped the tumours from growing and spreading in mice. The antibody therapy also
boosted a type of T-cell-modifying immunotherapy in clinical use. The researchers also show that this type of macrophage can be found in human breast cancer and , and therefore hope to be able to develop an antibody that can one day be used for treating these patients.

"We now hope that this , which has so far been tested preclinically, will one day be used in combination with another to make it even more efficacious," says Professor Karlsson. "We are also looking into whether the presence of this type of macrophage in human tumours can be used clinically for the diagnosis of diseases."

Explore further: Next-generation immunotherapy offers new hope for beating brain cancer

More information: Reprogramming tumor associated macrophages by antibody targeting inhibits cancer progression and metastasis.  Cell Reports, published online 19th of May 2016, doi 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.04.084

Related Stories

Next-generation immunotherapy offers new hope for beating brain cancer

March 2, 2016
High-grade glioma is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Despite improvements in surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, this type of brain tumour is still notoriously hard to treat: less than 10% of patients ...

Radiation and immunotherapy combination can destroy both primary and secondary tumors

May 1, 2016
Radiation therapy not only kills cancer cells, but also helps to activate the immune system against their future proliferation. However, this immune response is often not strong enough to be able to cure tumours, and even ...

New insights in cancer therapy from cell death research

March 31, 2016
Researchers in the group of Prof. Dr. Peter Vandenabeele (VIB/UGent) show that killed tumour cells can serve as a potent vaccine that stimulates the immune system to prevent the outgrowth of cancer cells. This finding opens ...

Nuclear DNA gets cut and activates immune system to attack cancer cells

May 10, 2016
The conventional wisdom about cancer cells is that they are masters of camouflage, invisible to the immune system. However, occasionally, the immune system is alerted to the presence of a cancer cell and springs into action ...

Blood vessel cells help tumours evade the immune system

August 24, 2015
A study by researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet is the first to suggest that cells in the tumour blood vessels contribute to a local environment that protects the cancer cells from tumour-killing immune cells. The ...

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

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.