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Natural anti-viral enzyme helps keep cancer cells alive, researchers find

The TBK-1 action is part of an immune reaction called the "host defense response," which is distinct from the "adaptive" immune process, in which the body creates new antibodies against invading pathogens. A great deal is currently understood about how the adaptive immune system fights cancer and also helps create tissue environments permissive to cancer, Dr. White said, but a cancer-promoting role for the host defense response has not been previously seen.

It's a straightforward matter to block the action of TBK-1, so this might be a promising avenue for new cancer treatments, Dr. White said. Because that would also interfere with the body's immune function, however, a balance would have to be found between killing cancer cells and compromising a patient's ability to fight disease.

UT Southwestern researchers are now looking for chemicals that block TBK-1. They are also screening cancer cells for similar biochemical pathways essential to their survival but not essential in normal cells.

"This is making us think that there are many other surprises awaiting discovery regarding biological systems that are inappropriately subverted during development of cancer," Dr. White said.
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Source:UT Southwestern Medical Center


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