A recent discovery in our immune system could cure several cancers, a study reveals.A team at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom has discovered a method to eliminate cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, among others.
However, it still only did it in laboratory tests, it did not apply to humans, but it guarantees to have “enormous potential”, says in the study published in the journal Nature Immunology.
Experts say that although the discovery is in the early stages, it is very encouraging.
What has been found?
Our immune system is our body’s natural defense against infections, but it also attacks cancer cells. Scientists have been investigating how the immune system attacks infections.
They found that the attackers are the T cells, which are found in the blood. When T cells find “enemies” in our body, they are activated to eliminate infection and disease.
There is already therapy with T cells – called CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells), or immunotherapy – but it has limitations because it has to be done individually, for each patient.
Cardiff’s team has found a way to make therapy universal, in the sense that it is used in several different patients with different tumors.
“There is a chance here to treat all patients,” investigator Andrew Sewell told the BBC. “Until now, nobody believed it was possible.”
This technique “increases the prospect of a single cancer treatment – a single type of T cell capable of destroying different types of cancer in the entire population,” says the expert.
How does it work?T cells have receptors on the surface that allow them to detect the enemy chemically – receptors called HLA, human leukocyte antigen. From then on, immunotherapy was developed.
Only this therapy is always individualized – the patient’s T cells are genetically modified in the laboratory to specifically attack those cangerigen cells that patient has.
In this recent investigation, scientists have discovered another T cell receptor – MR1 – that works similarly to HLA in detecting cancer cells, but with the big difference that it does not vary from patient to patient or from cancer to cancer.
Cardiff’s team also realized that this MR1 receptor leaves healthy tissues intact, it just hasn’t figured out how yet.
This research has only been applied to human cells in the laboratory and to mice, so there is still a long way to go before testing on humans.