Researchers from The Rockefeller University in New York City have developed a new method to fight cancer by using dendritic cells to activate T cells via a new pathway. Reported in the March 5 Nature, the technique offers the promise of new therapies for cancer, AIDS and autoimmune diseases.
"We've shown that dendritic cells can trigger an immune response when cultured with dying cells which carry an antigen, such as proteins from tumors or viruses," says lead author Matthew Albert, B.S., a biomedical fellow in the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology at Rockefeller. "This is a new and very potent pathway for activating T cells."
Dendritic cells present antigens --proteins belonging to invaders, mutated pieces of the body's own tissue or normal self-tissue--to the body's T cells, directing responses to either fight or tolerate these molecules. (Tolerance is essential in order to prevent attack against one's own tissues.) Found in most tissues of the body, dendritic cells are among the most efficient antigen-presenting cells in the body.
The immune system recognizes antigens after going through a complex process of education, learning to distinguish self from non-self. Cancer results when the immune system fails to identify tumors as "foreign."
Current treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy or radiation, target rapidly dividing tumor cells, but lead to serious side-effects because they attack healthy cells as well as tumors. Scientists are looking for more specific ways to attack tumor cells without damaging healthy cells.
One such technique is immunotherapy, which attempts to activate the immune
system to recognize tumors as foreign and reject them, based on tumor-specific
antigens that are presented on a molecule called MHC, a highly diverse set of
proteins responsible for allowing dendritic cells to communicate with T cells.
MHC molecules are different in each person, giving each individual a unique
immune system. Even the m
Contact: Joseph Bonner