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New target for cancer therapy identified, preclinical study shows
Date:1/31/2012

New York, NY -- Scientists from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) in Brussels identified a new target for cancer therapy, an enzyme which prevents the immune system from recognizing and destroying certain types of tumors. Called tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase or TDO, the enzyme works by depriving immune cells of tryptophan, an amino acid essential to their activity. TDO is produced by a significant number of human tumors. Scientists also show that blocking TDO activity with a novel TDO inhibitor promotes tumor rejection in mice. The study findings were published online today in the January 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Cancer immunotherapy leveraging the body's own immune system to attack and destroy tumors is emerging as a promising method for cancer treatment. Clinical testing of several immunotherapeutic approaches has shown variable success. Tumors often develop survival mechanisms to prevent the attack from the immune system. Researchers are now looking to evaluate the mechanisms that enable these tumors to escape detection by the immune system.

Previously, Brussels scientists from LICR and the de Duve Institute at the Universit catholique de Louvain (UCL) studied one enzyme that proved to do just that. It is known as indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase or IDO1 for short. IDO1 is expressed in many cancers, including prostate, colon, pancreas and cervical tumors. IDO1 blocks the immune system's ability to reject those tumors, by depriving immune cells of tryptophan. In the PNAS study released today, the same Belgian researchers have shown that TDO is also expressed in various human tumors and degrades tryptophan in a similar manner. Tumors expressing TDO include bladder and liver cancers, as well as melanomas.

"Little is known about the TDO enzyme and its ability to trick the immune system and prevent it from destroying deadly tumors. Our research is the first to explore
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Contact: Rachel Steinhardt
rsteinhardt@licr.org
212-450-1582
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Source:Eurekalert

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