Remarkably, the researchers found that the immune signatures of each of the human breast cancer cases nearly matched that of mice. In all cases, the researchers saw a suppression of CD83 and CD28, two genes that affect activation of immune cells, and over-production of B7-H4, a gene whose protein product inhibits immune activation. The human colorectal cancers, however, showed variations in their immune signatures, which researchers saw as an indication of the need to understand the signature for each patient’s individual cancer.
“I see it as the beginning stages of personalized medicine, where we develop tactics for treating the unique genetic make-up of a specific tumor,” Epstein said. “It becomes even more necessary when we look at all the immunotherapies that are becoming available or are beginning to emerge from research.”
In time, Epstein believes, it will be possible to study the immune signatures for most, if not all, forms of cancer. In addition, rtPCR technology allows for a relatively inexpensive and rapid analysis on equipment available at most medical centers, researchers said. “For now, we need to better understand the immune signatures for the most common human cancers in order to identify the most important targets for immunotherapy,” Epstein said.
The study was funded by the Philip Morris External Research program by Philip Morris USA, Inc., Philip Morris International and by support provided by Cancer Therapeutics Laboratories, Inc.
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