Thursday, 5 September 2013

Certain immune cells help cancer stem cells to survive

Compared to control (left),
immune cells (right) promoted tumor sphere formation,
an indication of cancer stemness
Normally, our immune system is supposed to protect our body from illness. But it seems that a subset of immune cells are doing more harm than good!

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, certain immune cells, called myeloid derived suppressor cells, provide a niche where the cancer stem cells survive.

Today, we know that cancer stem cells are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and this why finding a new way to kill them is crucial for eliminating cancer permanently.

At the same time that these immune cells help the cancer, they also are suppressing the immune system.

"This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive. If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone," said senior study author Weiping Zou, M.D., Ph.D., Charles B. de Nancrede Professor of surgery, immunology and biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The researchers believe the immune cells provide the cancer cells with their "stemness" -- those properties that allow them to be so lethal -- and that without this immune cell, the cancer stem cells may not efficiently progress.

The study, which was led by Tracy X. Cui, Ph.D., and Ilona Kryczek, Ph.D., looked at cells from the most common and lethal type of ovarian cancer, a disease in which patients often become resistant to chemotherapy, causing the cancer to recur.

Targeting the immune system for cancer treatment, called immunotherapy, has been well-received with many potential therapeutics currently being tested in clinical trials for a variety of cancer types.

"Collectively, our work identifies an immune-associated cellular, molecular, and clinical network involving MDSCs-microRNA101-CtBP2-stem cell core genes, which extrinsically controls cancer stemness and impacts patient outcome." an extract from the study.

Ovarian cancer is a cancerous growth arising from the ovary. Symptoms are frequently very subtle early on and may include: bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, and are easily confused with other illnesses.

Tracy X. Cui, Ilona Kryczek, Lili Zhao, Ende Zhao, Rork Kuick, Michael H. Roh, Linda Vatan, Wojciech Szeliga, Yujun Mao, Dafydd G. Thomas, Jan Kotarski, RafaƂ Tarkowski, Max Wicha, Kathleen Cho, Thomas Giordano, Rebecca Liu, Weiping Zou (2013). Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells Enhance Stemness of Cancer Cells by Inducing MicroRNA101 and Suppressing the Corepressor CtBP2 Immunity : 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.08.025

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