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Lipids help to fight leukemia
Date:6/16/2014

T cells use a novel mechanism to fight leukemia. They may recognize unique lipids produced by cancer cells and kill tumor cells expressing these lipid molecules. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Basel shows that a tumor-associated lipid stimulates specific T cells, which efficiently kill leukemia cells both in vitro and in animal models. The results have been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Leukemias are cancer diseases affecting blood cells . Acute leukemias prevent development of normal bold cells and thereby are severe life-threatening diseases. Current therapy for acute leukemias is based on chemotherapy that eradicates tumor cells followed by bone-marrow stem cell transplantation that reconstitutes the patient with healthy blood cells. In some cases, leukemia cells survive this treatment and start to re-grow. A major aim of many studies is finding novel and efficient ways to detect and eradicate leukemia cells before a second outbreak of the disease.

More punch against tumor cells

T lymphocytes are major contributors to fight against leukemias. T cells may recognize and become activated by tumor-specific protein antigens in some instances produced in large amounts only by tumor cells. These protein antigens are also called tumor-associated antigens (TAA) and stimulate specific T cells, which in turn kill leukemia cells. However, protein TAA accumulation can be drastically reduced by variant leukemia cells and some TAA may change their structure, thus preventing recognition by T cells and facilitating tumor immune evasion.

Prof. Gennaro De Libero and his team from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel has identified a new approach that might help to make the immune system more efficient in recognizing leukemia cells. His research team is studying T cells that specifically recognize lipid antigens since several years. Together with collea
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Contact: Olivia Poisson
olivia.poisson@unibas.ch
University of Basel
Source:Eurekalert  

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