New Delhi: A team of scientists has found a new way to slow the growth and spread of common cancers.
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute researchers found an antibody that inhibited the spread of melanoma, lung, breast and prostate cancer cells by activating immune cells known as Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Professor Mark Smyth, who led the study, said “The protein CD96 sits on the surface of these immune cells and its role is to stop the immune cells from becoming over-activated and attacking the body’s own healthy cells.”
He added, “We’ve previously found that cancers hijack this process and stop the immune system from recognising cancer cells and becoming activated. This allows the cancer to spread through the body.”
In the latest finding, Professor Smyth and his colleagues have shown that an antibody can be used to block CD96, enabling more effective NK cell activation, thereby allowing the NK cells to detect and destroy the cancer cells.
The finding paves the way for a new avenue in immunotherapy treatments to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is a fast-developing field that is revolutionising the treatment of cancer. It involves using a patient’s own immune system to treat cancer and other serious diseases.
“This is a very significant and exciting finding,” Smyth said, adding “Immunotherapy treatments are already proving highly successful in treating some cancers. But to date most of the focus has been on developing new treatments that work on a different kind of immune cell known as a cytotoxic T cell.”
Smyth noted, “By contrast, we have shown that we can slow the spread of cancer by targeting Natural Killer cells. We think that in future this method will be just as important and effective as other immunotherapy treatments that are already in use.”
Significantly, the study found that the antibody was even more effective in slowing the spread of the cancer cells and prolonging survival when used in combination with existing agents that target and activate cytotoxic T cells.
The study is published in the journal Cancer Discovery.