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Bone Marrow Cancer: New Insights into Boosting Tumor-Fighting Cells

Bone Marrow Cancer: New Insights into Boosting Tumor-Fighting Cells

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  • Bone marrow cancer is a type of cancer that causes abnormal proliferation of cells in the bone marrow.
  • Scientists have found a new way to boost the tumor-fighting cells for treating bone marrow cancer.
  • The research study provides new insights on immunotherapy that could benefit cancer patients.

A new way to boost specific type of tumor-fighting cells for bone marrow cancer has been identified by a research team from the VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology).

The research study was mainly carried out by blocking a hormone-related mechanism that could suppress the immune cells. This could restore the tumor's ability to battle growth.


The findings of the study published in the journal Leukemia revealed a new form of cancer immunotherapy.

Fat may accumulate in the bone marrow as we grow older. This could increase the risk of developing multiple myeloma ( a type of bone marrow cancer that is formed by malignant plasma cells). This phenomenon was a starting point of the study led by Dirk Elewaut on the role of leptin hormone produced by the fat cells to reduce the efficacy of cancer-fighting immune cells (natural killer T cells) and increasing the risk of cancer.

The scientists were able to block the leptin receptor that could augment protection against cancer.

Immune Cells Should be Responsive
The natural killer T cells (NKT cells) that are used to fight cancer are limited because after initial stimulation they may go into a state called "anergy" that could make them dormant and unresponsive for a long period of time.

This could spoil the normal function to protect against harmful pathogens and mutated cells. Even if additional treatments are needed, the NKT cells could no longer respond as they actually do.

Prof. Dirk Elewaut VIB-Ghent University, University Hospital Ghent said, "What makes our findings so important to the development of new cancer treatments is that we were able to restore the function of NKT cells under conditions when they would normally be in a state of anergy."

Study Findings
The research team used a form of a microscope that could give them an in-depth look at the processes that are carried in-vivo.

The study results could make observations that could lead to new insights into immune response mechanisms.

Prof. Dirk Elewaut said, "NKT cells normally move around in our tissues, patrolling constantly for danger signals. We saw that when they are stimulated, they rapidly stop migrating and start to produce very potent mediators that protect against many diseases, such as cancer. By contrast, NKT cells in anergy were unable to stop and continued to move around. By blocking leptin receptors, we observed that we could modulate this movement."

Cancer Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is a treatment that could use certain parts of the immune system to fight cancer. The immune system may help the body to fight against infections and other diseases.

Cancer immunotherapy is an emerging area of medicine for cancer patients. However, future research could investigate whether the mechanisms are at work in other types of tumor.

Prof. Dirk Elewaut said, "Our goal is to further evaluate this principle in both hematological -- or blood-related -- tumors and non-hematological tumors, potentially shining a light on future therapeutic avenues for other types of cancer as well."

  1. M Favreau, E Menu, D Gaublomme, K Vanderkerken, S Faict, K Maes, E De Bruyne, S Govindarajan, M Drennan, S Van Calenbergh, X Leleu, L Zabeau, J Tavernier, K Venken, D Elewaut. Leptin receptor antagonism of iNKT cell function: a novel strategy to combat multiple myeloma. Leukemia, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/leu.2017.146
  2. Immunotherapy - ( https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy)

Source: Medindia

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