Retinoic acid may improve immune response against melanoma
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IMAGE: Martin McCarter, MD, and colleagues show that adding retinoic acid to standard-of-care treatment may help the immune system target melanoma. view more 

Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center

Immunotherapies use the immune system to fight cancer. But cancers like melanoma have found ways to turn off the immune system, allowing them to resist treatments and often leading to recurrence. Now University of Colorado Cancer Center clinical trial results published today in the journal International Immunopharmacology describe a promising strategy to remove one of melanoma’s most powerful defenses: By adding retinoic acid to standard-of-care treatment, researchers were able to turn off myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that turn off the immune system, leading to more immune system activity directed at melanoma.

“The immune response and MDSCs are like yin and yang, balancing each other. For example, you want the immune system to fight an infection and then you want MDSCs to shut down the immune system when the infection is gone,” says Martin McCarter, MD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and surgical oncologist at the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

“We started studying our melanoma patients and found a ton of these MDSCs in the circulation and in the

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