Immune Protein May Help Spur Cancer's Return

Finding opens new target for treatment, researchers say

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FRIDAY, March 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Interferon gamma, an immune system signaling protein, plays a key role in cancer relapse, U.S. researchers report.

In humans, interferon gamma is produced by immune system white blood cells in response to invasion by pathogens or in response to the presence of tumors. Production of interferon gamma against tumors has been regarded as a sign of good patient prognosis, but this study suggests that may not be the case.

In the study, a team at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center studied breast cancer in mice. They found that interferon gamma does play a part in tumor relapse.

Reported in the March issue of the European Journal of Immunology, the finding may help in the development of tailored vaccines or other kinds of immunotherapy treatments for a number of kinds of cancers, the researchers said.

"By understanding the molecular mechanisms involved with tumor relapse, we can create tailored vaccines that can induce specific types of immune responses in patients, rather than inducing a broad range of immune responses -- some of which may be detrimental or may induce tumor relapse," lead investigator Masoud H. Manjili, a member scientist with the Massey Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer relapse.

SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, March 13, 2007

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