APR 06, 2020 6:52 AM PDT

Clearing the Path for Dendritic Cells to Eliminate Tumors

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Dendritic cells are the sentinels of the immune system and use their “tree-like” projections to present antigens from pathogens to initiate the adaptive immune response. During cancer, dendritic cells are suppressed by chemical factors around the periphery of tumors, allowing these masses to grow and spread. On top of that, a subset of dendritic cells that are known to suppress the immune system is often recruited to the tumor site, limiting the ability of other immune cells to infiltrate and stall tumor growth.

Can we interrupt the tumor’s ability to evade the immune system? This is a question driving research at Mount Sinai, where scientists recently uncovered a molecular pathway that cancers use to block the infiltration and activities of dendritic cells. The team, led by Miriam Merad, Director of Mount Sinai’s Precision Immunology Institute also identified ways to leverage this pathway to boost cancer immunotherapy. The study was published in Nature.

The team used single-cell sequencing and state-of-the-art microscopy techniques to study human lung tumors as well as a mouse lung cancer model. They were particularly interested in the complex dynamics of dendritic cells and cancer cells at the interface of tumors and the healthy surrounding tissues. These interactions involved the interplay between multiple immune cells, particularly affecting the ability of T cells to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic lymphocytes, mainly cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells have the ability to eradicate tumors. But first, they have to “see” them, with the help of dendritic cells. Merad and team identified chemical signals and molecular interactions involved in the breakdown of communication between dendritic cells and T cells at the tumor site.

These findings shed light on a contributing factor to why so many patients fail to respond to immunotherapies, a form of treatment that boosts the body's natural defenses against cancer. Currently, only about 20 percent of patients show signs of improvement following a form of immunotherapy called checkpoint blockades. By combining existing therapies with a second pharmaceutical intervention that overrides the suppression of dendritic cell activity at the tumor site, researchers are optimistic that this will drastically improve patient outcomes. A clinical trial to test this approach is being designed, in collaboration with biotech company, Regeneron.

"This study highlights the power of single-cell technologies to identify new therapeutic targets in cancer," says Merad.

 


 

Sources: Science Daily, Nature.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
MAR 13, 2020
Immunology
MAR 13, 2020
Malaria drug treats lupus and prevents diabetes
A drug commonly used to treat certain types of malaria has been found to have some surprising synergistic effects: havin ...
MAR 31, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 31, 2020
20 Facts About the Placenta - A Lifeline Between a Mother and Her Baby
The placenta is the lifeline that connects the mother and her baby. It is a multi-functiona organ that is responsible fo ...
APR 20, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
APR 20, 2020
Worst COVID-19 Cases May be Caused by Immune Cell Overactivity
The SARS-CoV-2 virus causea huge range of symptoms, and researchers are learning more about the worst cases, which may h ...
APR 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 20, 2020
First Successful Vaccine for Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome
Researchers have successfully completed the first-in-human clinical trial for a vaccine against MERS (Middle East Respir ...
MAY 17, 2020
Coronavirus
MAY 17, 2020
Substantial Antiviral Response Seen in Adults Recovered from COVID-19
Some good news comes as researchers scramble for potential vaccine candidates amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Scien ...
MAY 26, 2020
Immunology
MAY 26, 2020
The Hunt for Rare Immune Cells, to InfinityFlow and Beyond
The immune landscape is staggeringly complex, with a myriad of genetically and functionally distinct immune cell subpopu ...
Loading Comments...