American researchers have successfully coaxed the immune systems of mice to gobble up glioblastomas, the deadliest brain tumours.
Maria Castro, Pedro Lowenstein and their colleagues at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, injected the mice's tumours with a gene that attracts chemotherapy drugs, and one that attracts immune cells.
The researchers revealed that upon giving the mice chemotherapy, they noticed that the drugs killed only a fraction of the tumour, but the dying cells released a protein that stimulates brain immune cells to recognise tumour cells as a target and attack.
They added that given that immune cell levels are boosted due to the second inserted gene, the immune response to tumours was strong enough in some cases to entirely destroy them.
Writing about their work in PLoS Medicine, the researchers said that their study showed the possibility of harnessing the immune system to fight tumours.
They hope to begin clinical trials in humans soon and test the method on cancers elsewhere in the body, reports New Scientist magazine.