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Animal study identifies promising new target for brain tumor therapy

DURHAM, N.C. -- A drug that targets the bodys immune cells may be effective in treating malignant brain tumors, according to a new study led by researchers from Dukes Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. In animal models, the drug re-engaged the bodys cancer-damaged immune system.

"We were effectively targeting bad T cells that can damage the immune system if their numbers are too high, and good T cells that help create an immune response to things like infections and tumors," said John Sampson, M.D., Ph.D., a neurosurgeon at Duke and senior investigator on the study. "We found that this drug was able to stop the bad cells in their tracks by giving the good ones a type of bulletproof jacket."

The researchers speculate that patients with a restored immune system will be better equipped to fight off brain tumors. They hope to start a clinical trial soon.

The results of this study hold promise for the development of vaccines that can work against tumors by eliciting the help of the bodys immune system, Sampson said. The researchers published their findings in the April 1, 2007 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Brain Tumor Society and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

T cells are white blood cells that play an important role in the bodys immune system. Regulatory T cells help maintain immune balance, so they are responsible for toning down an immune response after the body has fought off a foreign invader, such as an infection, Sampson said. But patients with brain tumors often have too many regulatory T cells, rendering their immune systems ineffective in fighting off tumors.

In contrast, cytotoxic T cells, which act to destroy infection and tumor cells, are often depleted in people with brain tumors, enabling the tumor cells to grow and spread unchecked. Those cytoxic T cells that remain can be insufficient because of the increased number
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Contact: Lauren Shaftel
lauren.shaftel@duke.edu
919-684-4966
Duke University Medical Center
8-May-2007


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