Insights into how brain cancer evades the immune system
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Glioblastoma – a universally fatal form of brain cancer – is known for its ability to hijack immune checkpoints and evade detection and destruction by the body’s immune defenses. But many of the details underlying this feat remain unknown. A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital finds that some types of glioblastoma tumors may be able to shed extracellular vesicles (EVs) – small packages of biomaterial – that can help to suppress the body’s ability to mount an immune response against the tumor. In addition, the team detected DNA levels from these EVs in blood samples from patients with glioblastoma, suggesting that they could potentially serve as a biomarker of the disease. The team’s results are published online this week in Science Advances.

“This is the first time that anyone has observed that immune checkpoints can operate through extracellular vesicles and not just through the cell surface,” said co-corresponding author Sean Lawler, PhD, of the BWH Department of Neurosurgery. “This is a new concept, suggesting that these vesicles can work more distantly from the tumor cells.”

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are already in the clinic and in clinical trials for glioblastoma, but challenges remain. The current study

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