OCRF Researchers Find Some Immune Cells Aid Cancer Growth

A new OCRF-funded study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that a subset of immune cells, called myeloid derived suppressor cells, do more harm than good by providing a niche where the cancer stem cells survive.  The research is published in the journal Immunity.

Cancer stem cells are thought to be resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and researchers believe that killing the cancer stem cells is crucial for eliminating cancer.

At the same time that these immune cells help the cancer, they also are suppressing the immune system.

“This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive. If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone,” says senior study author and OCRF grantee Weiping Zou, MD, PhD, professor of surgery, immunology and biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The researchers believe the immune cells give the cancer cells their “stemness” – those properties that allow the cells to be so lethal – and that without this immune cell, the cancer stem cells may not efficiently progress.

The study looked at cells from the most common and lethal type of ovarian cancer.  Targeting the immune system for cancer treatment, called immunotherapy, has been well-received with many potential therapeutics currently being tested in clinical trials for a variety of cancer types.

Click here to read the abstract.