VISTA checkpoint implicated in pancreatic cancer immunotherapy resistance
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HOUSTON – Researchers have identified a new potential immunotherapy target in pancreatic cancer, which so far has been notoriously resistant to treatment with immune checkpoint blockade drugs effective against a variety of other cancers.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center research team found overexpression of the immune checkpoint VISTA on immune cells, especially macrophages, that infiltrated pancreatic tumors. Their paper will be published online Friday at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“VISTA is a potential therapeutic target in pancreatic cancer, and there are several antibodies to block VISTA under clinical development,” said co-senior author Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology. “Additional research also needs to be done to see if we can come up with other targets for these VISTA-positive cells as well.”

Present immune checkpoint inhibitors that unleash an immune attack on cancer by blocking PD-1 and CTLA-4 brakes on T cells have been ineffective against pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal cancers. The five-year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is 7 percent or less.

The team, led by Sharma and 2018 Nobel Laureate Jim Allison, Ph.D., professor and chair of Immunology, set out to shed light on infiltration of

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