Dendritic cells play an important role in the immune system. Specifically, they help gather up antigen-presenting cells (or APCs) and present them to other cells in the immune system, such as T cells. In doing so, they help trigger a response from the immune system.
The activity of dendritic cells can play a crucial role in certain types of immunotherapy treatments for cancer, as well. Dendritic cell-based therapies, for example, work to train dendritic cells to recognize tumor-specific antigens. In theory, this gives the body tools it needs to detect and fight cancer cells on its own. These treatments can help overcome obstacles the body faces with cancer; for example, tumors can trick and confuse dendritic cells that might be able to destroy it, weakening the body’s natural defenses.
In a new retrospective study, researchers concluded that vitamin E, specifically, plays an important role in conditioning dendritic cells and invigorating them, improving patient response to different kinds of immunotherapy. Researchers reviewed data from patients who had received immunotherapy at MD Anderson Hospital. Results from the analysis are published in Cancer Discovery.
Vitamin E offers a lot of health benefits, though it primarily works as an antioxidant that helps reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species produced when fat is oxidized. It’s found naturally in a range of plant-based foods, nuts, and fruits and veggies.
From their analysis, researchers found that vitamin E may play a crucial role in preventing some of the regulatory checkpoints in dendritic cells from activating. Specifically, it appears vitamin E binds to the SHP1 protein, which is a key regulatory checkpoint in dendritic cells. By preventing this regulatory marker from activating, dendritic cells could activate and encourage more T cell development and disbursement throughout the body, boosting the body’s immune response.
Researchers believe these findings point towards new directions for dendritic-based immunotherapies in the future. Not only did they find that vitamin E boosted immunity, but findings also suggested that the SHP1 protein could be a viable therapeutic target in future therapies.