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New research project aims to improve cancer therapies using type I interferons
Date:4/23/2013

The immune system plays a decisive role in the fight against tumor cells. However, when tumor cells themselves prevent activation of the immune system, the immune system fails to destroy cancer cells. The cancer drug interferon-α could probably neutralize this blockade. This cytokine is being used successfully to treat various forms of cancer. However, some patients experience undesirable autoimmune reactions on administration of the drug. The German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe e.V.) is donating EUR 180,000 to fund a research project at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz that is to identify mechanisms underlying the effects of the cancer drug interferon-α (IFN-α) when it comes to fighting cancer cells by means of the blockade of so-called immunological tolerance processes. In addition, the researchers want to discover novel approaches to increase the efficacy of type I interferons in the treatment of cancer.

Interferon-α can trigger autoimmune reactions in patients, i.e., pathological reactions of the immune system. Interferon-α has been seen to date as an active substance that boosts the immune system and fights tumor cells directly. It is used, for example, in the therapy of malignant melanomas, certain forms of leukemia and cutaneous T-cell lymphomas. "The immune system is usually able to effectively destroy cancer cells. At the same time, however, there are also so-called tumor-associated tolerance processes that protect the tumor cells from being destroyed by the immune system. Autoimmune reactions, which are known side effects of therapies with IFN-α, may indicate that this anti-tumor treatment blocks tolerance mechanisms and thus improves the immune system's natural ability for tumor rejection," explained Professor Dr. Kerstin Steinbrink, senior physician at the Department of Dermatology of the Mainz University Medical Center, which is supervising the research project "Analysis
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Contact: Dr. Reneé Dillinger-Reiter
pr@unimedizin-mainz.de
49-613-117-7424
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz
Source:Eurekalert

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