Monash research provides insights into why older people respond poorly to cancer treatment
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IMAGE: This is Monash BDI’s Professor Nicole La Gruta and Dr Kylie Quinn. view more 

Credit: Monash University

It’s called the Silver Tsunami – the increased incidence of cancer with ageing, combined with the rapidly ageing population means that the Australian health system needs to prepare for an onslaught of cancer diagnoses.

A new study out of Monash University, published today in the journal Cell Reports, may have found a group of immune cells that increase in number with age but are too worn out to fight off diseases.

Professor Nicole La Gruta and Dr Kylie Quinn, from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, have found that a subset of immune cells, called virtual memory T cells, make up around 5% of T cells in young animal models and humans but accumulate significantly with old age and lose the ability to become activated. Importantly, the Monash researchers found that another subset, called true naïve T cells, retain their capacity to mount an immune response but decline in frequency dramatically with increasing age, from 90 per cent to 30 per cent in animal models and humans. These shifts are likely caused by age-related inflammation or “inflamm-ageing”.

According to Professor La Gruta,

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