A New Approach to Target the Immune System Without Causing Autoimmune Problems

Dario Vignali, Ph.D (Photo), vice chair of the St. Jude Department of Immunology in Memphis, Tennessee (USA), and a team of researchers have discovered a way to target the immune system to shrink or eliminate tumors in mice without causing autoimmune problems. Researchers also found evidence that the same mechanism may operate in humans.

The study, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Cancer Center at NIH and ALSAC, was published today in the advance August 4, 2013 online edition of Nature.

The new research findings provide a new target for ongoing efforts to develop immunotherapies to harness the immune system to fight cancer and other diseases. The work focused on white blood cells called regulatory T-cells. These specialized cells serve as the immune system?s police force, working to control inflammation and guard against autoimmune and inflammatory disease. Regulatory T-cells can, however, interfere with the immune system?s ability to fight cancer.

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[1] Delgoffe GM, Woo SR, Turnis ME, Gravano DM, Guy C, Overacre AE, Bettini ML, Vogel P, et al. Stability and function of regulatory T-cells is maintained by a neuropilin-1-semaphorin-4a axis.Nature. 2013 Aug 4. doi: 10.1038/nature12428. [Epub ahead of print][Article][PubMed]

Photo courtesy:?St. Jude Children?s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee (USA)

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