JUN 26, 2015 7:43 AM PDT

Targeting Killer T-Cells

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
One reason why cancer is so harmful is that it can trick "checkpoint" proteins found on the immune system's T cells, virtually putting the T cells to sleep. New drugs are finding a way to wake up the T cells and harness them to fight cancer, according to an article in Science News (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/new-cancer-drugs-wake-sleeping-killer-t-cells).
New drugs awaken T cells to help the immune system fight cancer.
T cells are white blood cells that are important to the immune system and are conducive to adaptive immunity, the system that helps to control the body's immune response to specific pathogens. T cells are "like soldiers who search out and destroy the targeted invaders," explains MedicineNet. The article goes on to say, "Immature T cells, known as T-stem cells, migrate to the thymus gland in the neck, where they mature and differentiate into various types of mature T cells and become active in the immune system in response to a hormone called thymosin and other factors. T-cells that are potentially activated against the body's own tissues are normally killed or changed ("down-regulated") during this maturational process. There are several different types of mature T cells. Not all of their functions are known. T cells can produce substances called cytokines such as the interleukins which further stimulate the immune response. T-cell activation is measured as a way to assess the health of patients with HIV/AIDS and less frequently in other disorders. T cell are also known as T lymphocytes. The "T" stands for "thymus" -- the organ in which these cells mature, as opposed to B cells which mature in the bone marrow" (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11300).

Clinical trials in 2014 offered hope for checkpoint drugs in patients who were using them as a last resort against melanoma and cancers of the kidney, bladder and lung, and new studies have demonstrated promising results against those and other cancers, according to the Science News article. Some trials are combining two "checkpoint stoppers" with good results. In one study, Postow and his team an international team gave either ipilimumab or nivolumab, or both, to people with inoperable melanoma that had spread to areas beyond the skin. Nearly 58 percent of the patients getting both drugs showed tumor shrinkage of 30 percent or more. Almost 44 percent of the patients getting just nivolumab saw a reduction in their tumors, as did 19 percent of people getting only ipilimumab, the researchers said at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago and in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Three other studies also look promising. In a group of patients with especially hard-to-treat melanoma, 44 of 72 who got the two checkpoint drugs had a good response compared with just four out of 37 getting ipilimumab alone, researchers said at a meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Philadelphia. In patients who had relapsed or unresponsive Hodgkin's lymphoma, 11 out of 23 demonstrated improvement after 24 weeks on nivolumab and could stay on the drug. In 272 lung cancer patients who had a poor prognosis, nivolumab itself showed better results than the standard chemotherapy drug docetaxel; after one year, 42 percent of the patients on the checkpoint drug were still alive, as opposed to 24 percent of patients on the chemo drug. These results, which were presented at the ASCO meeting, are "pretty unheard of," according to study coauthor Julie Brahmer, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. All of the studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
APR 06, 2020
Cancer
APR 06, 2020
A New Lead in the Treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinomas
  Hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC, is a type of liver cancer, and the third most prevalent cancer-caused death in ...
APR 01, 2020
Cancer
APR 01, 2020
New immunotherapy for ovarian cancer
Research published recently in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that targeting macrophages in a new kind of ...
APR 11, 2020
Cancer
APR 11, 2020
The Mice Make the Difference in CAR-T Studies
It is quite common in cancer therapies to see a drug or treatment that has been around for decades. New drugs are hard t ...
APR 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 21, 2020
Skin Deep: Handheld Device Sees the Earliest Signs of Cancer
Researchers have developed a handheld device that can image structures under the skin at resolutions 100 times greater t ...
APR 25, 2020
Cancer
APR 25, 2020
Breaking the Blood-Brain Barrier in the Fight Against Brain Cancer
One of the more unique aspects of the human body is the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that protects the central nervous syst ...
MAY 05, 2020
Cancer
MAY 05, 2020
Can a face-aging app improve sun protection behavior?
Can a face-aging mobile app improve the skin cancer protection behavior of teenagers? A cluster-randomized clinical tria ...
Loading Comments...