Cancer cells may have a way to prevent the immune system from destroying them.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre scientists have discovered a distinct cell population in tumours that inhibits the body’s immune response to fight cancer.
The findings, published online in Nature Medicine, are critical to understanding more about why patients do or do not respond to immune therapies, says principal investigator Pamela Ohashi, Director, Tumour Immunotherapy Program at the cancer centre, University Health Network. Dr. Ohashi holds a Canada Research Chair in Autoimmunity and Tumour Immunity. She is also a Professor at University of Toronto in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Immunology.
“We’ve uncovered a potential new approach to modulate the immune response to cancer,” says Dr. Ohashi. “By looking at tumour biology from this different perspective we’ll have a better understanding of the barriers that prevent a strong immune response. This can help advance drug development to target these barriers.”
The research team with international collaborators analysed more than 100 patient samples from ovarian and other cancer types to discover a distinct population of cells found in some tumours. This population of cells suppresses the growth of cancer-fighting immune cells, thereby limiting the ability of the immune system to fight off cancer.
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