Genetic Technique Bolsters Immune Cells to Battle Cancer

Scientists prompted them to aggressively attack malignancies

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TUESDAY, Jan. 25, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Using specialized genetic techniques, German scientists redirected immune cells to aggressively attack and kill cancer cells, says a study in the January issue of Immunity.

This research provides new understanding about how to prompt the immune system to specifically and efficiently target cancer cells, and may provide the basis for development of new immunotherapy to treat cancer, the researchers said.

Cancer cells produce and display large amounts of proteins called tumor- and leukemia-associated antigens (TAA and LAA), which are recognized by immune cells. But many normal cells and tissues also display small amounts of TAA. The body has a certain level of tolerance that prevents immune cells from launching a vigorous attack on cancer cells.

This, in part, has made it difficult to use immune system/TAA interactions to develop immunotherapies to treat cancer, the researchers said.

The German scientists used genetic methods to circumvent this self-tolerance and redirect key human immune cells to attack cancer cells.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about the immune system.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Jan. 25, 2005

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