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Immunotherapy for elderly cancer patients finds new promise in drug combination
Date:4/15/2012

why, and in this paper his team explains the answer. In older mice, when the drug turned off the Tregs, the researchers found that another type of immune suppressor cell (a myeloid-derived suppressor cell or MDSC) exploded in number to take the Tregs' place, hampering clinical efficacy. That did not happen in young mice.

The team added a second drug that targets the MDSC, and found that with those tools to help immunity, the older hosts can combat cancer just as well as the younger hosts. Adding the second drug afforded no clinical benefit to young hosts, as their MDSC numbers had not increased.

"We've shown that an aged immune system can combat cancer just as well as a young one if you remove the impediments to successful immunity, which are different that those in younger hosts," Dr. Curiel said. "We've shown that if you test all your immune therapy just in young mice and young people, you'll never learn how it works in older patients the ones most at risk for cancer. You might conclude that drugs don't work in aged hosts, when they do. But they have to be combined with some help."

After discovering this in melanoma, the researchers then looked at whether the same action held true in colon cancer, a major cancer killer in the elderly.

"The details were different in colon cancer. The bad immune cells that increased in the aged mice and how they were knocked down by the drugs were different than in melanoma," Dr. Curiel said. "But the result was the same we identified a drug combination that was highly effective in the aged mice."

That means that not only must this strategy be developed with regard to the age of the patient, he said, it also must be specific to the cancer.

"It's a bit complicated, but it's possible to put into practice, and because these approaches could be so much more specific and so much better tolerated than conventional chemotherapy, it is well worth pursuing. We are grateful to the Voel
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Contact: Elizabeth Allen
allenea@uthscsa.edu
210-450-2020
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Source:Eurekalert

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