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The immune system's guard against cancer
Date:4/6/2010

The human body has developed various mechanisms, through which it can protect itself against newly-developing cancer cells. For instance, killer-cells recognize and destroy altered cells in our organs every day. Once tumours have developed, they may be inhibited in growth by messenger substances from the immune system. Scientists from the research group "Molecular Immunology" at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig have now succeeded to reveal a completely unexpected function of such an immunological messenger substance in the suppression of tumours; i.e., the molecule "beta-interferon" inhibits the tumour in its attempts to connect into the human blood circulatory system. Moreover, it hinders the production of growth factors that support the formation of new blood vessels. The conclusion - the tumour cannot grow. The results from their study have been published in the latest issue of the scientific magazine "Journal of Clinical Investigation".

The connection with the blood circulatory system is a significant step in the development of cancer. Within the tissue where it is growing, the tumour develops an independent existence. With signal substances it entices white blood cells from the bone marrow into the tumour tissue. The task of these cells, usually, is to defend against infection and stimulate the healing of wounds. Within the tumour, these cells prompt new blood vessels to increase their rate of growth. Once the tumour is connected to the blood circulatory system, it is provided with nutrients for growth. It also can then disseminate its own cells into the overall blood circulatory system as well and form metastases. Scientists at the HZI are now in the process of deciphering precisely how a messenger substance is able to inhibit this integration process into the blood circulatory system.

Messenger substances are the fine-tuning regulators of immune-cells; they activate or deactivate them, generate th
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Contact: Susanne Thiele
susanne.thiele@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-053-161-811-400
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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