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Breaking down cancer's defense for future vaccines
Date:2/23/2012

Researchers at the EPFL have identified an important mechanism that could lead to the design of more effective cancer vaccines. Their discovery of a new-found role of the lymphatic system in tumour growth shows how tumours evade detection by using a patient's own immune system.

Tumour cells present antigens or protein markers on their surfaces which make them identifiable to the host immune system. In the last decade, cancer vaccines have been designed that work by exposing the patient's immune cells to tumour-associated antigens and so priming them to kill cells that present those antigens. These have caused much excitement, not least because by acting so specifically on cancer cells, they could potentially eliminate the unpleasant side effects of chemo- and radiotherapy.

Like soldiers protecting a fort

However, clinical trials of such vaccines have had a very low success rate to date, mainly because tumours have various mechanisms for evading detection by immune cells, even when those immune cells called T cells have been primed to seek them out. Those mechanisms are, in general, poorly understood. But in a paper to be published this week in Cell Reports, the laboratories of Melody Swartz at EPFL and Stphanie Hugues at UNIGE provide a key insight into one of them. They describe for the first time how, like soldiers protecting a fort, lymph vessels surrounding a tumour ward off T cell attack.

Plenty of research has shown that tumours can induce the growth of lymph vessels in their vicinity, and that this growth is correlated with metastasis and poor prognosis. It was assumed that these lymph vessels simply provided an escape route for cancer cells, transporting them to distant sites. In the new study, led by postdoc Amanda Lund, the researchers show that lymph vessels actually suppress the immune response, deleting the attacking T cells or leaving them "functionally exhausted" by the time they reach the
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Contact: Michael Mitchell
michael.mitchell@epfl.ch
41-798-103-107
Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne
Source:Eurekalert  

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Breaking down cancer's defense for future vaccines
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