Potential new cancer treatment a step closer

Published:

Microscope image of immune cells in melanoma (Supplied Jason Madore and Ailin Lepletier)

QIMR Berghofer researchers have discovered a potential new cancer immunotherapy target that involves switching off a regulatory cell to stop tumours growing and spreading.

The study findings have been published today in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Senior researcher and head of QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory, Associate Professor Michele Teng, said in future the discovery could potentially help treat patients with cancers where other current immunotherapies have not worked.

“Our work on mice shows for the first time that many tumours display the molecule MR1 on their cell surface, and when it’s present, this molecule turns on an important regulatory cell that prevents the body’s own immune system from fighting the cancer,” Associate Professor Teng said.

“We found if a type of regulatory cell called MAIT (mucosal-associated invariant T) cells are turned on, they stop immune or white blood cells known as T and NK cells from attacking and killing off tumour cells.

“The cancer is effectively creating its own defence mechanism to evade immune attack and survive. The display of MR1 activates the MAIT cells, which in turn switch off cancer-fighting T and NK cells.

“While other regulatory cells of the immune system are known to stop T and NK cells from killing tumour cells, this is the first time it’s been shown that these regulatory MAIT cells can do this job.”

Associate Professor Teng said her team found that by giving mice an antibody that blocked MR1, this stopped the MAIT cells from becoming activated, and the T and NK cells could respond, slowing cancer growth and stopping it spreading.

“This work demonstrates that antibodies that block MR1 could in future be an effective new immunotherapy,” Associate Professor Teng said.

“It probably won’t work on every cancer, but it looks like it could be effective in treating cancers that can display the MR1 molecule.  It also means this display of MR1 could be used to screen which patients would respond to this immunotherapy.

“We now need to replicate this research in humans.”

Associate Professor Teng said while the research was at a very early stage and required more work, it was promising.

“The next step is to try to understand what kind of human tumours display MR1 as a protective mechanism, which would then help us identify which tumours would respond best to MR1-blocking immunotherapy,” she said.

“Immunotherapies have been effectively used to treat more than 15 different cancer types but the proportion of patients that respond for each cancer can differ.

“In patients with advanced melanoma for example, current approved immunotherapies work in about 50 per cent of cases, but half do not respond, and that’s why we need to find new therapies.”

The research was partially funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, and can be accessed on the Cancer Discovery website.

 
Health & Wellness Lifestyle Science & Research Technology & Communications
Social:   

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute :
PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, 4029, Brisbane
07 3845 3752
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Scientists develop test that will help prevent glaucoma-related blindness 21 January 2020 | Australian researchers have identified 107 genes that increase a person’s risk of developing the eye disease glaucoma, and developed a genetic test to detect those at risk of going blind from it. More information...
Potential new cancer treatment a step closer 12 December 2019 | QIMR Berghofer researchers have discovered a potential new cancer immunotherapy target that involves switching off a regulatory cell to stop tumours growing and spreading. More information...
Study finds key risk factors for teenage suicide 09 December 2019 | New Australian research has found that young people who report suicidal thoughts and who also experience auditory hallucinations and psychological distress are at the greatest risk of future suicide attempts. More information...
How much sunshine causes melanoma? It’s in your genes 21 November 2019 | Australian researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have shown that 22 different genes help to determine how much sun exposure a person needs to receive before developing melanoma. More information...
Researchers find new clues to what drives ADHD 01 November 2019 | New Australian and Taiwanese research has for the first time pinpointed where in the brain the communication process breaks down for people with chronic attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a... More information...
Researchers find why some Parkinson’s patients develop harmful addictive behaviours 27 October 2019 | A QIMR Berghofer study has discovered how the medications given to people with Parkinson’s disease cause some patients to develop addictive behaviours such as problem gambling, binge eating, hypersexuality and... More information...
Australian researchers recruit for world's largest skin cancer study 17 September 2019 | Queensland researchers have launched the world’s largest ever genetic study of skin cancer and are calling on more than 20,000 Australians to take part. More information...
Scientists discover promising new lead in Crohn's disease 17 September 2019 | QIMR Berghofer researchers have identified a key driver of the aggressive gut disorder, Crohn’s disease, a finding that could eventually lead to new treatments for the often-debilitating condition. More information...
Australian researchers find 45 new genetic causes of non-melanoma skin cancers 06 August 2019 | An Australian study has discovered 45 new genetic variants that put people at a greater risk of developing the most common form of skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). More information...
Daily coffee doesn’t affect cancer risk 18 July 2019 | Drinking coffee does not change a person’s risk of being diagnosed with or dying from cancer, a new QIMR Berghofer study has found. More information...


comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service