How To Dismantle Cancer’s Defences To Boost Immunotherapy

The team conducted experiments on mice with lung and colon cancers, observing how cancer cells can hijack a normal type of cell called a fibroblast, using it as a shield to hide from the lymphocyte attack. In these cases, they become known as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and scientists believe they play a pivotal role in preventing immunotherapy from working, with many solid cancers exhibiting a high concentration of these corrupted cells.

Immunotherapy for cancer has been a very exciting development, but still doesn’t work in most patients,” says study author Professor Gareth Thomas. “Our results suggest that in many cases, treatment resistance is caused by CAF, and we think this can be overcome by targeting NOX4. GKT137831 hasn’t yet been tested on cancer patients, but we hope may give immunotherapy drugs a much better chance of fighting cancer cells effectively; this technique could hugely improve the success rate of cancer immunotherapy.”

The team says the next steps are to see if these results can be replicated in humans. The University of Southampton team has also received funding from Cancer Research UK to begin investigating how it might improve immunotherapy treatments for breast cancer patients.

The research was published in the journal Cancer Research.

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