Natural killer (NK) cells are crucial to the immune system and protect the body by destroying cancer cells. By studying these NK cells, a research team at the IRCM has identified the mechanism of action for a new target for novel immune-oncology treatments.
The researchers are more specifically interested in a protein called DNAM-1 that plays a key role in the elimination of cancer cells. It is a receptor located at the surface of NK cells, and competes with other receptors that also want to interact with cancer cells, such as the TIGIT receptor that, on the contrary, reduces the efficiency of NK cells.
Dr. Veillette, Director of the Molecular Oncology research unit at the IRCM, said, "We discovered the mechanism by which the DNAM-1 protein stimulates the function of NK cells and, thus, increases their capacity to eliminate cancer cells. When the TIGIT receptor interacts with an infected cell, it prevents its interaction with the DNAM-1 protein, which, as a result, suppresses the function of NK cells and slows the immune system."
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.