New cancer treatment uses enzymes to boost immune system and fight back
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IMAGE: Left: Cancer manipulates your immune system to support tumor growth by sending signals to your immune cells to turn off. Right: The UT team’s treatment degrades that signal and allows… view more 

Credit: Norah Ashoura Graduate student Molecular Biology College of Natural Sciences, UT.

AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new approach to treating cancer using enzyme therapy.

The enzyme, PEG-KYNase, does not directly kill cancer cells but instead empowers the immune system to eradicate unwanted cells on its own. PEG-KYNase is designed to degrade kynurenine, a metabolite produced by numerous tumors that suppresses the immune system. The UT team’s findings were published in a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology.

A healthy, fully functioning immune system can combat the spread of cancer cells and eliminate tumors by itself. However, tumors have evolved in multiple ways to suppress the immune system, leading to the growth and metastasis of cancer cells.

“Our immune system constantly polices the body and normally recognizes and eliminates cancerous cells,” said Everett Stone, research assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Molecular Biosciences and co-author of the study. “Kynurenine acts as a roadblock to

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