In cancer patients, the number of tumor-associated immune cells is correlated with poor prognosis.
Reducing these cells in mouse models of breast cancer reduces tumor metastasis, indicating that tumor-immune interactions are critical for cancer progression. In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation
, Shelley Earp and colleagues at the University of North Carolina a Chapel Hill demonstrate that removal of the protein MerTK from immune cells decreased tumor growth in mouse models of breast cancer, melanoma, and colon cancer.
Loss of MerTK reduced the release of molecules associated with inflammation. These findings suggest that drugs that inhibit MerTK may stimulate anti-tumor responses and could potentially have clinical benefit.