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St. Jude Finds Molecule That Could Improve Cancer Vaccine and Therapy for Other Diseases
Date:11/21/2007

The discovery of a new cytokine called IL-35 could allow clinicians to treat diseases by turning up or down the immune response

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Nov. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered a new signaling molecule that prevents immune responses from running amok and damaging the body. The finding could lead to the development of new treatments for cancer, using vaccines; for autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes; and for inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.

The St. Jude team discovered that specialized immune lymphocytes called regulatory T cells release a protein complex composed of two proteins called Ebi3 and Il12a. This complex acts like a brake on the activity of the aggressive immune cells called effector T lymphocytes. The discovery is important because the manipulation of regulatory T cells is a key goal of immunotherapy. A report on this discovery appears in the journal "Nature" Nov. 22, 2007.

The newly recognized protein complex is one of a large group of signaling molecules called cytokines that cells use to communicate with each other. Since the immune system cytokines are called interleukins, the St. Jude team named this protein interleukin-35 (IL-35). Most cytokines stimulate immune system cells; however, IL-35 is one of the few signaling molecules known to inhibit immune system activity.

"The maximal suppressive function of regulatory T cells depends on IL-35, so blocking IL-35 activity might reduce the ability of T cells to block anti-tumor immune responses," said Dario Vignali, Ph.D., associate member in the St. Jude Department of Immunology, and the paper's senior author. "Treatments that block IL-35 activity may make anti-cancer vaccines more effective and provide new therapeutic opportunities for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases."

"Our findings suggest that controlling levels of IL-35 in pati
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SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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