New cancer immunotherapy shows promise in early tests
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IMAGE: By re-programming macrophages by injecting tumors with a drug-plus-antibody supramolecule, Ashish Kulkarni and UMass Amherst, with others, report promising preclinical anti-cancer complementary therapy results. view more 

Credit: UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. – Much cancer immunotherapy research has focused on harnessing the immune system’s T cells to fight tumors, “but we knew that other types of immune cells could be important in fighting cancer too,” says Ashish Kulkarni at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Now he and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with others, report that in preclinical models they can amplify macrophage immune responses against cancer using a self-assembling supramolecule.

As immune cells, macrophages usually eat foreign invaders including pathogens, bacteria and even cancer cells, Kulkarni explains, but one of the two types do not always do so. Macrophage type M1s are anti-tumorigenic, but M2s can be recruited by tumor cells to help them grow. Also, tumor cells overexpress a protein that tells the macrophages, “don’t eat me.” In this way, pro-tumorigenic macrophages may make up 30 to 50 percent of a tumor’s mass, says the biomedical engineer and lead author of the new study.

Kulkarni adds, “With our technique, we’re re-programming the M2s into M1s by

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