Disguises Aren't Just for Spies

Immunoediting in cancer mutations to avoid T cells

(RxWiki News) T cells are the beat cops of the immune system, and they constantly patrol around the body looking for critters. T cells recognizing and destroying weird cells is also one of the most effective defenses of the body against cancer.

Research recently published looked at ways to help the home team, helping T cells do a better job of recognizing cancer so they can destroy it. Their system uses DNA sequencing to produce a wanted poster of the cancer, so the T cells have up-to-date information.

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The team, led by members from Washington University School of Medicine, uses DNA sequencing to take a specific look at cancer genetics. Originally a million-dollar undertaking, DNA sequencing has become increasingly affordable at a few thousand dollars.

Cancer immunoediting is the process of how T cells are able to recognize cancer cells. This is complex because of cancers' ability to change, avoiding T cell destruction. 

Further development of this research would allow specialized information about a cancer to be given to T cells in that patient. Senior author Robert Schreiber, Ph.D. from the Washington University School of Medicine said, "To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show that the faster methods provided by DNA sequencing can help. That opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities."

"Many of the cancer genome projects now under way are looking for the 'driver' mutations, or the mutations that cause the cancers," Schreiber says. "Our results suggest there may be additional information in the sequencing data that can help us make the immune system attack cancers."

The research was performed on tumors in mice, and used genetic analysis of common tumor mutations. The research focused on a specific mutation of a protein spectrin beta 2 that was common in cancer cells but not in normal cells.

The study was published in Nature.

Funding for this research was from the National Cancer Institute, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the Cancer Research Institute, the WWWW Foundation and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The authors of the study declared no competing financial interests.

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Review Date: 
February 8, 2012