An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The Cardiff University team discovered a method of killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests. The findings, published in Nature Immunology, have not been tested in patients, but the researchers say they have “enormous potential.” Our immune system is our body’s natural defense against infection, but it also attacks cancerous cells. The scientists were looking for “unconventional” and previously undiscovered ways the immune system naturally attacks tumors. What they found was a T-cell inside people’s blood. This is an immune cell that can scan the body to assess whether there is a threat that needs to be eliminated. The difference is this one could attack a wide range of cancers.
T-cells have “receptors” on their surface that allow them to “see” at a chemical level. The Cardiff team discovered a T-cell and its receptor that could find and kill a wide range of cancerous cells in the lab including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells. Crucially, it left normal tissues untouched. Exactly how it does this is still being explored. This particular T-cell receptor interacts with a molecule called MR1, which is on the surface of every cell in the human body. It is thought MR1 is flagging the distorted metabolism going on inside a cancerous cell to the immune system. Treatment would include extracting T-cells from a blood sample of a cancer patient and then genetically modifying them so they were reprogrammed to make the cancer-finding receptor. The upgraded cells would be grown in vast quantities in the lab and then put back into the patient.
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