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UCSF team discovers new way to predict breast cancer survival and enhance effectiveness of treatment
Date:4/2/2011

that the immune system is closely linked to cancer because it naturally keeps cancer in check or at least it's supposed to. The body is filled with immune cells that seek out and destroy tumors, but those cells often prove ineffective at controlling cancer completely. Moreover, certain types of cancer can actually co-opt immune cells and use them to help tumors grow.

Normally the immune system protects the body by unleashing on tumors an immune cell called a killer T cell. This cell is effective, but dangerous. It can shrink tumors, but it also can damage healthy tissue. So the immune system uses another type of immune cell, called a macrophage, to control killer T cells, calling them where needed and shutting them down to keep them from damaging healthy tissue.

Coussens and her colleagues found that some cancers subvert this process by using macrophages to suppress the killer T cells and keep them away from tumors.

A RATIONALLY DESIGNED CLINICAL TRIAL

This effect of this subversion was apparent in tumor biopsies the team examined from 677 people with breast cancer. An immune profile based on the relative abundance of three immune cells in the tumors the killer T cell, the macrophage, and another immune cell known as a helper T cell accurately predicted overall survival from the disease, determined whether an individual's cancer was prone to metastasize, and predicted whether it would recur once treated. The tumors that tended to fare worse under the treatment had fewer killer T cells in them.

This basic observation is what led to the new treatment strategy, which the team tried first in mice. They used a drug to reprogram mouse tumors, changing their immune profiles and looking to see whether that made them more susceptible to chemotherapy. It did. When they next gave the mice chemotherapy, their tumors grew slower and the mice lived longer without metastasis.

But will this work in people? The history
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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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