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Retraining Immune Cells To Kill Tumors

May 20, 2008
Journal of Experimental Medicine
Tumors escape destruction by immune cells by turning off their tumor killing functions. A team of scientists have now found a way to retrain the impotent cells into potent tumor destroyers.

Immune cells called macrophages can destroy tumor cells by producing inflammatory proteins that are toxic to the tumor. But the environment inside the tumor somehow halts this production and instead causes the cells to make proteins that promote tumor growth.

The new study identifies a protein, called IKK(beta), that drives this pro-tumor switch. This protein normally stimulates protective inflammation.

But in the context of tumors, the study shows, IKK(beta) also blocked the activity of a protein that turns on anti-tumor genes.

When the scientists inactivated IKK(beta) in macrophages from mouse tumors, the tumor-friendly cells went on the attack. These cells also secreted proteins that attracted professional tumor-killing cells that helped to shrink the tumors.

The researchers are now conducting clinical trials to determine whether macrophages from cancer patients can be similarly reprogrammed into tumor killers.

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Journal of Experimental Medicine. "Retraining Immune Cells To Kill Tumors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2008. <>.
Journal of Experimental Medicine. (2008, May 20). Retraining Immune Cells To Kill Tumors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 11, 2016 from
Journal of Experimental Medicine. "Retraining Immune Cells To Kill Tumors." ScienceDaily. (accessed February 11, 2016).

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