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Unblocking the immune system 'fights cancer'

Published on 19/08/2013

Unrestricting the full power of our immune system, which is designed not to attack our own body, could prove an effective tool in attacking cancer, US research says.

Clinical trials in humans are years away

The human body’s immune system is posed so that it will attack foreign invaders but will not work against the body’s own tissues. A recent study in animals discovered that altering the immune system’s process could lead to new and more effective forms of treatment for cancer.

The study was conducted by a team from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Many diseases can be caused by the immune system attacking its own body tissue, most notably multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes.

The research focused on Treg cells, a popular area of investigation which have been identified as a possible weapon against both cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The Treg cells are responsible for preventing the immune system attacking the body. The scientists in this study attempted to block the Treg cells from working in the hope that the immune system would attack the cancerous parts of the body.

Dr Wayne Hancock, one of the study’s researchers, said: “We needed to find a way to reduce Treg function in a way that permits antitumor activity without allowing autoimmune reactions."

Scientists bred mice without a specific chemical that is required for Tregs to work effectively. A drug which acted in the same way was also introduced into normal mice. In both instances the unblocking of the immune system prevented the growth of a type of lung cancer.

Dr Hancock said: "It really moves the field along towards a potentially major, new cancer immunotherapy.”

These initial studies are encouraging but further more studies would have to be conducted before any clinical trials in humans were made to see if the process could be replicated.

Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "Turning the power of our immune system against cancer is a promising field of research and something scientists around the world, including our own, are studying.

"These findings go another step towards developing new treatments that act in this way, but the research is still at an early stage and we don't know yet whether this approach will be safe or effective in people."

Health insurance can cover you for acute conditions but many have the option to include comprehensive cancer care should you wish.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013

Categories:  Health InsuranceHealthMedical
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