Precancerous colon polyps in patients with Lynch syndrome exhibit immune activation
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IMAGE: This is Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D. view more 

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Credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center

HOUSTON – Colon polyps from patients with Lynch syndrome, a hereditary condition that raises colorectal cancer risk, display immune system activation well before cancer development, according to research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The preclinical research challenges traditional models of cancer immune activation and suggests immunotherapy may be useful for colorectal cancer prevention in certain high-risk groups.

The findings, published in JAMA Oncology, will be presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018 in Chicago by Kyle Chang, graduate research assistant.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1, such as pembrolizumab and nivolumab, have been successful in treating colorectal cancers with deficiencies in DNA mismatch repair (MMR). These tumors accumulate large numbers of genetic mutations and mutant proteins, or neoantigens, which are thought to stimulate an immune response, making them more susceptible to checkpoint blockade therapy.

“Our question was how this worked in premalignancy,” said senior author Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention and Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology. “Can we apply checkpoint inhibitors or checkpoint inhibitor strategies to prevent MMR-deficient colorectal cancer?”

Lynch syndrome (LS), which is caused by inherited mutations in

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