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Novel Therapeutic Target Keeps T Cells Fighting Fit Against Cancer

by Tanya Thomas on December 2, 2008 at 10:45 AM
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 Novel Therapeutic Target Keeps T Cells Fighting Fit Against Cancer

Fighting infection, even cancer, may become quite easy for the human body if everything goes the way researchers at the Wistar Institute expect it to go. They have developed a potential therapeutic target that enables the body's immunity- keeper, the T cells, in great shape for fighting infection.

The research team has identified seven different receptors on T cells that can suppress immune responses during a long battle with an infectious pathogen or against developing cancer.

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Study's lead author, E. John Wherry, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Wistar's Immunology Program said that chronic over-stimulation of the immune system can 'exhaust' immune cells rendering them ineffective.

The key finding is that these new receptors likely control different aspects of T cell responses, such as division or expansion, controlling viral replication, and local killing of infected cells versus secretion of long-range active antiviral proteins.
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"This amount of control over T cells' response is remarkable. It suggests that layers of negative regulation exist on exhausted T cells from co-expression of multiple inhibitory receptors," Nature quoted him as saying.

"My bet is that these receptors inhibit different aspects of the T cells' response, but that the net result of their activation is to turn specific T cell populations off.

"We are starting to see a picture emerging of a really tuneable array of inhibitory receptors expressed on T cells.

"That suggests it may be possible to not only dramatically enhance antiviral or antitumor T cell responses, but also to fine tune which response you want to enhance in order to reverse T cell exhaustion and continue fighting an infection or disease.

"This presents us with a great clinical opportunity. T cells have a lot of weapons at their disposal to control viral infection and most of them are disarmed when these cells become exhausted.

"It may be possible to selectively rearm T cells while generally reinvigorating them," he added.

The study appears in journal Nature Immunology.

Source: ANI
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