JAN 24, 2020 8:37 AM PST

Immune "Recycling" Could Improve Cancer Immunotherapy

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A natural housekeeping function performed by many cells of the human body, including those in the immune system, is under intense scrutiny for its potential to create more robust immunotherapy for treating cancer.

Cells like T lymphocytes of the immune system perform autophagy on a regular basis as a “recycling” mechanism for breaking down cellular debris. These simple housekeeping cellular interactions, described in a 2019 review article published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology as a “essential degradative process,” may hold the key to improving current immunotherapy technology because of the potential to secure healthy cellular functioning by removing and replacing worn out organelles, like mitochondria.

Researchers are hopeful that utilizing autophagy could help improve efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, a technique that harnesses that natural power of the human immune system to fight cancer. Giving the immune system the tools it needs to fight cancer off on its own is often a less toxic option than chemotherapy or radiation.

In this study, researchers looked specifically at live-resident T cells and their autophagy activity. This is a specific population of T cells that live exclusively in the liver and have adapted to its unique environment. In more ways than one, liver T cells help protect the organ from chronic viral infections. With autophagy, T cells support cellular nutrition and renewal of organelles like mitochondria.

"T cells living within the liver must adapt to the stressful microenvironment, with low levels of oxygen and an abundance of inhibitory signals, to find ways of maintaining prolonged survival and functionality,” explained corresponding author Dr. Leo Swadling.

Swadling and the rest of the research team found that liver-resident T cells are particularly skilled at autophagy – functioning at an “enhanced rate.” They also found that interleukin (IL)-15 cytokines, “soluble messenger proteins,” are pulling the strings, building this skillset for the T cells. This study is the first to identify IL-15 as able to “boost” autophagy in human T cells.

The impact of this identification is clear: the potential to improve existing immunotherapy techniques (like CAR T cell therapy) by improving T cell health and survival. Researchers could implement the same T cell autophagy observed in the liver to boost strength of T cells extracted from the blood for immunotherapy by exposing them to IL-15.

Sources: University College London, Cell Reports

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
OCT 22, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 22, 2019
New RNA Observation Shows Previously Unkown Attachment to Sugar
Scientists in the Bertozzi at Staford University have published surprising observations of glycan sugars attached directly to RNA during glycosylation.&nbs...
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...
NOV 12, 2019
Immunology
NOV 12, 2019
Allergy Shots May Work for Kids with Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
It’s not common for young children to develop pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS), but for those that do, there’s not too much parents can do o...
JAN 04, 2020
Immunology
JAN 04, 2020
Why Do Skincare Products Sometimes Cause Rashes?
Chemicals commonly found in skincare products are intended to avoid interactions with the part of the immune system responsible for triggering allergic inf...
JAN 07, 2020
Immunology
JAN 07, 2020
"Good" T Cells Can Go "Bad," But in the Case of Cancer, That's A Good Thing
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 transiti...
FEB 19, 2020
Immunology
FEB 19, 2020
Rainbow trout hold the key to unravelling immunological mysteries
What do the gut microbiome, antibodies, and rainbow trout have in common? A lot, says researcher J. Oriol Sunyer from the University of Pennsylvania’...
Loading Comments...