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A Potential Novel Immunotherapy Target for Cancer

Researchers have found a potential immunotherapy target for cancer, which can help treat patients whose standard immunotherapies failed to work. The potential new treatment involves switching off regulatory cells to stop the tumors from growing and metastasizing.

During research;

  • The team noted that a lot of lesions display molecule MR1 on their cell surfaces. When the molecule is present, it turns on important regulatory cells that hinders the immune system of the body from fighting cancer.
  • Known as mucosal-associated invariant (MAIT), the regulatory cells, when turned on, will stop the white blood cells (also called T and NK cells) from attacking and destroying the cancerous cells.
  • The cancer cells create their own defense mechanisms and evade any immune attacks in order to thrive. This they achieve by displaying MR1 to activate the MAIT cells, which in turn will switch off the T and NK cancer-fighting cells.
  • The researchers found a way to stop this by giving patients an antibody that will block the MR1 and stop the MAIT cells from activating. This will make the T and NK cells respond by slowing the growth of the tumors and preventing them from spreading.
  • The antibodies act as immunotherapy by effectively blocking the MR1. It may not work on all cancers but will work on lesions that display the MR1 molecule with excellent outcomes. To identify patients who qualify for this treatment will be easy since the display of MR1 will be used to screen them.

While the study is promising, it is still at its early stages, and so more work is required to perfect the findings. The scientists are working to understand the type of tumors that display MR1 as their protective mechanism. This will help them pinpoint the tumors that will effectively respond to the MR1-blocking immunotherapy.

Patients’ responses to each type of immunotherapy differ. That is why more work is needed to find out which particular immunotherapy will work best for every unique cancer type.

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