Molecular 'magnets' could improve cancer immunotherapy
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IMAGE: A mouse tumour (grey/white areas) being infiltrated by cDC1 (yellow cells) that exited from blood vessels (blue). Red and green identify other immune cells. Infiltration by cDC1 triggers anti-cancer immune… view more 

Credit: Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, Francis Crick Institute

Chemicals that attract specialised immune cells toward tumours could be used to develop better immunotherapies for cancer patients, according to new research published in Cell.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered that immune cells called Natural Killer cells accumulate in tumours and release chemicals that attract specialised dendritic cells (cDC1) – white blood cells known for triggering anti-cancer immune responses – to the tumour.

Genes associated with Natural Killer cells and cDC1 correlated with cancer patient survival in a dataset of over 2,500 patients with skin, breast, neck and lung cancers.* A similar correlation was seen in an independent group of breast cancer patients, with a particularly positive outcome for women with triple negative breast cancer, which typically has a poor prognosis.**

“Our findings have given us a renewed appreciation of the importance of Natural Killer cells and cDC1 in the immune response against cancer,” says Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, Senior Group Leader at

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