Johns Hopkins researchers have invented a new class of cancer immunotherapy drugs that are more effective at harnessing the power of the immune system to fight cancer. This new approach, which was reported in Nature Communications, results in a significant decrease of tumor growth, even against cancers that do not respond to existing immunotherapy.
“The immune system is naturally able to detect and eliminate tumor cells. However, virtually all cancers — including the most common cancers, from lung, breast and colon cancers to melanomas and lymphomas — evolve to counteract and defeat such immune surveillance by co-opting and amplifying natural mechanisms of immune suppression,” says Atul Bedi, M.D., M.B.A., an associate professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and senior author of the study.
A major way tumors evade the immune system is via regulatory T cells (Tregs), a subset of immune cells that turn off the immune system’s ability to attack tumor cells. Tumors are frequently infiltrated by Tregs, and this is strongly correlated with poor outcome in multiple cancer types.
Many tumors produce high levels of a protein that promotes the development of Tregs. Bedi’s team reasoned that
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