Researchers reveal new mechanism to ‘activate’ immune system against cancer

Washington: A recent study now says that a new mechanism for activating the immune system against cancer cells allows immune cells to detect and destroy cancer cells better than before.

The study, published in the journal Nature, was led by Professor Nick Haining, of Harvard Medical School, and was co-authored by Prof. Erez Levanon, doctoral student Ilana Buchumansky, of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, and an international team.

The study focused on a mechanism that routinely serves the cell by marking human virus-like-genes in order to avoid identifying them as viruses.

Now, Prof. Levanon, together with the Harvard team, has discovered that when inhibiting this mechanism, the immune system can be harnessed to fight cancer cells in a particularly efficient manner, and most effectively in lung cancer and melanoma.

Speaking about it, Levanon added, “We found that if the mechanism is blocked, the immune system is much more sensitive. When the mechanism is deactivated, the immune system becomes much more aggressive against the tumor cells.”

Recent years have seen the emergence of cancer drugs developed with blocks proteins that inhibit immune activity against malignant tumours.

In fact, this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo, who discovered the key genes of this mechanism.

It is hoped that the new discovery will allow enhanced activity of the immune system to attack cancer cells.