JAN 07, 2020 1:53 PM PST

"Good" T Cells Can Go "Bad," But in the Case of Cancer, That's A Good Thing

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

T cells may be able to reach their full potential in the fight against cancer with a little nudge. In 2010, scientists first observed CD4+ T cells transitioning from a regulatory role to a cytotoxic role, directly targeting and killing cancer cells as a result of immunotherapy. After this observation, the same team sought to identify the key mechanisms behind this transition. What molecular and cellular interactions are necessary to “nudge” CD4+ T cells in a more cytotoxic direction when survival against cancer is on the line?

T cells like CD4+ cells are included as ingredients in immunotherapy protocols because of their role in the immune response to threats against the body, including cancer and pathogens. Immunotherapy is an approach to cancer treatment that relies on boosting the body’s natural mechanisms for thwarting cancer, including optimizing the activity of immune system components like T cells. To reach their full potential, some T cells first need be equipped to recognize cells as cancerous when necessary.

A new study conducted in mice identified T cell growth factor interleukin (IL)-2 and transcription factor Blimp-1 as factors responsible for altering CD4+ T cells’ functional identity, triggering the change from regulatory to cytotoxic in the context of cancer.

Past research of IL-2 associates this growth factor with working alongside regulatory T cells to maintain self-tolerance, the immune practice of preventing immune cells from attacking the body’s own cells during the immune response. Blimp-1, also know as “B lymphocyte-induced maturation protein-1,” is linked to the “development and function of antibody-producing B cells,” an important part of the adaptive immune response.

With this information, researchers can optimize the way in which they recruit CD4+ T cells in immunotherapy approaches to treat cancer. Upon translating the results of the current study to cases of human immune interactions, researchers can develop novel custom cell therapies specifically targeting IL-2 and Blimp-1 in different contexts of cancer. Results from the present study have the potential to greatly improve the way scientists equip T cells to recognize cancerous cells for application of immunotherapy.

Sources: National Cancer Institute, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, University College London, Immunity

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2019
Immunology
AUG 04, 2019
New Research In Reversing Deafness
Hair cells inside the human ear are responsible for sensing and relaying sound to the brain.  In all mammals except humans, these cells can regenerate...
OCT 25, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
OCT 25, 2019
Novel Therapeutic For Eradicating The Flu Virus
Public Health officials have long warned about pandemic pathogens flying fast around the world. One virus already spreads across the globe annually leading...
OCT 29, 2019
Immunology
OCT 29, 2019
Immune Protein Prevents Herpes Spreading to the Brain
An immune protein that was discovered more than two decades ago has been identified as the primary component of a molecular blockade that prevents genital ...
NOV 20, 2019
Immunology
NOV 20, 2019
Harnessing the Power of Natural Killer Cells to Fight Cancer
Manipulating the immune system’s population of natural killer cells could bolster therapies targeting cancer. A new study saw positive results invest...
NOV 26, 2019
Immunology
NOV 26, 2019
The Immune System's Hand in Toxic Shock
While rare, toxic shock is a dangerous condition that acts fast and can be fatal. A new study identified a new target for treating toxic shock, a component...
NOV 28, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
NOV 28, 2019
Immunotherapy Drug Shows Promise for Treating Advanced Prostate Cancer
By the end of the year, an estimated 175,000 men in the United States will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now, researchers from the UK have foun...
Loading Comments...