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Tumors Use a Protein to Hide From Immune System

Disguised as lymph nodes, cancer can evade detection, researchers find

THURSDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- New research from Switzerland provides insight into how tumors remain undetected by the body's immune system by mimicking lymph nodes.

"The tumor tricks the body into thinking it is healthy tissue," lead author Melody Swartz, head of the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering, said in a news release about the study, published online March 25 in Science.

According to Swartz and her colleagues at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the findings could lead to better treatments for cancer.

In the study, the researchers focused on a protein that is typically found in lymph nodes and discovered that certain tumors can secrete the protein, making them appear to be lymph nodes. This disguise allows the tumors to manipulate immune cells known as T-cells, just like lymph nodes do, the study authors explained.

The findings have "important implications for tumor immunotherapy," Jacqui Shields, another researcher, explained in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has details on different types of cancer.

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SOURCE: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, news release, March 25, 2010

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