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Mayo Clinic: Exhaustion renders immune cells less effective in cancer treatment
Date:5/9/2012

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Rather than stimulating immune cells to more effectively battle cancerous tumors, treatment with the protein interleukin-12 (IL-12) has the opposite effect, driving these intracellular fighters to exhaustion, a Mayo Clinic study has found. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.The study helps explain the negative results of clinical trials testing the treatment's ability to ramp up the body's natural immune response to destroy cancer cells. The study also demonstrates that the same "T cell exhaustion" that plagues specialized immune cells during chronic viral infections also affects cells fighting long bouts of cancer.

MULTIMEDIA ALERT:: Video of interview excerpts is available on the Mayo Clinic News Network

The results suggest a change in therapeutic tactics for lymphomas and other cancers by dampening, rather than fueling, the effects of cell-signaling molecules such as IL-12.

The study focused on a type of cancer called Follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (FL), the second most frequent type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Previously, senior author Stephen Ansell, M.D., Ph.D.,a Mayo Clinic hematologist, had shown that tumors biopsied from patients with FL and other similar cancers are a 50-50 mixture of cancer cells and immune cells. Although those immune cells are genetically programmed to kill cancer, instead, they seemed content to cohabitate with their deadly neighbors. Dr. Ansell wondered if a phenomenon known as T cell exhaustion may be the cause. The study findings suggest it is.

"It is like beating a dead horse," says Dr. Ansell. "Our study suggests that many immunotherapy approaches are futile, because these cells are already past the point where they can do thei
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Contact: Joe Dangor
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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