Natural killer cells of the immune system could play an important role in fighting cancer.
A new front in the war against cancer has been opened by scientists tapping the potential of ‘natural killer’ cells.
Researchers in Australia identified a mechanism that causes natural killer (NK) immune cells to show mercy to cancer.
Switching it off had a dramatic effect on mice with normally lethal skin, prostate and breast cancers.
NK action against the tumours was stepped up, preventing deadly metastasis, the spread of cancer to vital organs in the body.
In the case of breast cancer, tumour growth in the mammary glands was significantly reduced.
Lead scientist Dr Nicholas Huntington, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, said: ‘This is about learning how to activate the NK cells of the individual patient and boost their immune system to tackle the disease.
‘We are hopeful our research will lead to new immunotherapies that supercharge the body’s natural killer cell, and maintain it in a highly active state to more efficiently and specifically fight cancer.’
Natural killer cells are specialised white blood cells that act as the immune system’s assassins.
Like murderous agents working for a totalitarian state, their job is to locate and eradicate ‘deviant’ cells in the body that may pose a threat.
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