SEP 13, 2022 4:24 AM PDT

How Cell 'Waste' Boosts Immune Cells' Fight Against Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Just a few weeks ago, a report in Cell Metabolism showed that a chemical that is often thought of as a waste product released from cells, called lactate, can actually boost the function of immune cells. Another report in Nature Communications has now confirmed those findings, but in this study, the researchers showed that the addition of lactate can help immune cells fight cancerous tumors.

Image credit: Pixabay

Lactate is a metabolic byproduct that is generated and released by some muscle cells during strenuous exercise. Whie lactate can be used as a fuel by some other cells, high levels of lactate can lead to muscle cramping after exertion. This new research has also suggested that lactate may also be useful as a boost to immunotherapy.

"The lactate that we usually think of as a waste product appears to have a previously unrecognized role in fighting cancer," said study co-leader Professor Jinming Gao, Ph.D., of UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center.

Lactate is also an ingredient in Ringer's solution, which is used as an  intravenous treatment that can replenish fluids after blood loss caused by surgery, burns, or other trauma. Lactic acid, which is lactate with an added proton, has also been linked to cancer growth and immune system suppression, but the relationship has been unclear.

In this study, the researchers used mouse models of colon cancer and melanoma; tumors grow in these mice. Lactate injections were given to some of the mice while another group of mice was given glucose injections as a control. This showed that lactate, but not glucose, could reduce tumor growth significantly in mouse models of colon cancer and melanoma.

Next, the scientists repeated the experiment using mouse models in which T cells, which can fight tumors, were ablated. Lactate injections lost their tumor-reducing impact, suggesting that the lactate is working on T cells, and boosting their anti-tumor activity.

Tumors were not totally eliminated from the mice. But when the investigators added an immune checkpoint inhibitor, which is a type of immunotherapy that removes the brakes on T cells that can prevent them from battling cancer, tumors were gone in about half of the mice.

Additional work showed that lactate improved the impact of a cancer vaccine, as well as increasing an anti-cancer effect in T cells that were grown in culture and then injected into mice with tumors.

Single-cell RNA sequencing was applied to examine how the lactate affected T cells. This suggested that lactate makes T cells less exhausted, which can happen after a lengthy battle with a tumor.

Lactate might be useful as an immunotherapy supplement, Gao suggested. Exercise also increases lactate levels naturally, so it may have an anti-cancer effect, maybe through prevention or improving immune system function, added Gao.

Sources: UT Southwestern Medical Center, Nature Communications

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 27, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Universal Vaccine for Influenza A and B Shows Promise in Mice
AUG 27, 2022
Universal Vaccine for Influenza A and B Shows Promise in Mice
A new universal flu vaccine is effective against both influenza A and B viruses in mice. The corresponding study was pub ...
SEP 09, 2022
Immunology
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
SEP 09, 2022
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
The human immune system must respond to a diverse array of infectious agents and harmful invaders throughout our lifetim ...
SEP 26, 2022
Cancer
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
SEP 26, 2022
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
One type of cancer immunotherapy, called oncolytic viral therapy, works by infecting cancer cells with a specific virus. ...
OCT 27, 2022
Cardiology
Consistent Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Heart Disease and Inflammatory Disorders
OCT 27, 2022
Consistent Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Heart Disease and Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic sleep deprivation harms immune cells, which may lead to heart problems and inflammation.
OCT 25, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Certain Air Pollutants Linked to Worse Outcomes in Interstitial Lung Disease
OCT 25, 2022
Certain Air Pollutants Linked to Worse Outcomes in Interstitial Lung Disease
Fibrotic interstitial lung disease (fILD) is a frustratingly difficult disease to characterize. For one, fiLD is difficu ...
NOV 30, 2022
Immunology
Rogue, Cancer-Linked Immune Cells Found to Drive Autoimmune Disorders
NOV 30, 2022
Rogue, Cancer-Linked Immune Cells Found to Drive Autoimmune Disorders
Leukemia patients are more likely to get autoimmune disorders like aplastic anemia or rheumatoid arthritis than unaffect ...
Loading Comments...