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A new molecule to boost modern cancer therapies

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Posted May 28, 2019

Highly effective modern cancer therapies rely on immune cells to attack and shrink tumours. Medicine instructs body’s immune system to attack cancer cells, which is a safer approach, but scientists from the University of Edinburgh found a way to boost this effect. They found a molecule that boosts the function of immune cells and allows patient’s body to launch a powerful anti-cancer immune response.

Dendritic cells allows body's immune system to identify and attack cancer cells. This is employed in cancer therapies. Image credit: Aszakal

Dendritic cells allows body’s immune system to identify and attack cancer cells. This is employed in cancer therapies. Image credit: Aszakal via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The molecule is called LL-37. It is naturally produced by the body as it is responding to bacterial and viral infections. Now scientists found that this molecule is able to boost dendritic cells, which are responsible for initiating targeted immune responses. They have been employed in cancer therapies as they allow immune system to recognize and attack tumours, but the process takes a lot of time and effort as samples of dendritic cells have to be grown into cultures in labs. And this is where LL-37 molecule comes in.

LL-37 boost the yield of dendritic cells, creating more cells in a shorter period of time. This means that more cells are available for clinical use quicker. Scientists say that this could become a significant boos for cancer therapies that rely on body’s own natural immune response. They already completed studies with mouse models, which showed that therapies improved by the LL-37 molecule created a powerful anti-cancer immune response.

This led to tumours shrinking quicker and cancer retreating more effectively. Scientists also conducted first experiments with human cells and found a similar effect. They are convinced that LL-37 could boost the success of cancer therapies for people, but, of course, some additional experiments are needed before clinical trial could be launched.

Some of the experiments showed complete clearance of the cancer. This shows that the LL-37 has a huge potential of improving the cancer treatment for millions of people. Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay, one of the authors of the study, said: “We hope that our discovery will create new opportunities by overcoming some of the current road-blocks to effective use of dendritic cell-based cancer therapies”. This could launch a further research into the effects of dendritic cells as well. Eventually, therapies could be easier and quicker to apply and work much more effectively.

Cancer therapies are getting more and more advanced. Part of it is due to scientists attacking the disease on the molecular level. It will take some time, but LL-37 could significantly improve body’s immune system’s ability to recognize and kill cancer cells.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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