Colon cancer: New therapeutic approach discovered in the immune system

Forum Health Colon cancer: New therapeutic approach discovered in the immune system

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    Colon cancer: New therapeutic approach discovered in the immune system

    Our immune system is a complex and very important mechanism: thanks to it, our body can fight diseases and remember them – for example Covid-19 disease. However, this does not always work optimally, for example with hay fever, when the immune system overreacts to harmless pollen, or with autoimmune diseases when it attacks parts of the body. And even with colon cancer there is often a failure of the immune system: Instead of mobilizing an immune response to fight the cancer cells, the body’s own regulatory T cells slow down the reaction.

    Good versus Evil: Differences Between Immune Cells

    Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are used in many places in the body for a wide variety of tasks, but it is noticeable that they are present in particularly large quantities in colon cancer patients. A research team from the University of Duisburg-Essen therefore examined these immune cells more closely. They recently published the results in the journal “Cancer Research”. The group assumed differences between the downregulating Tregs and the good T cells. Therefore, they looked for features that were exclusively found in the Tregs in the tumor tissue. “This makes it easier to target tumor-associated Tregs without risking undesirable side effects by switching off the other, positive Tregs,” explains Dr. Alexandra Adamczyk, first author of the study.

    Marker molecule exposes tumor-promoting T cells

    In fact, during their search, the researchers found a certain marker molecule that was only found in tumor-associated Tregs: the GPR15 receptor. It allows the T cells to penetrate the tumor tissue and also increases the production of inflammatory messenger substances. After they had located the marker molecule, they had to test whether GPR15 actually promoted tumor growth. To do this, they switched off the receptor experimentally. “We could see that tumor growth progresses more slowly and the Tregs do not migrate into the tumor tissue as strongly,” said Dr. Alexandra Adamczyk. Overall, the part of the immune defense that fights cancer cells became stronger again.

    Specific approach with great potential

    So far, colon cancer therapies have often been associated with great effort and not a few losses for those affected. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are unspecific and therefore stress the whole body. Therapy that helps the immune system fight cancer itself would therefore be a major step forward. “The manipulation of regulatory T cells could in the future be used in the personalized treatment of colon cancer patients,” explains Prof. Dr. Astrid Westendorf, lecturer in infection immunology at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Despite the early research stage, the scientists see great potential in their approach for new treatment options for colorectal cancer. And Prof. Westendorf is also confident: “Even if we were initially only able to show a lot of this in experimental laboratory tests, we hope that we have laid important foundations for new therapies in colon cancer patients,” said Prof. Astrid Westendorf.

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Forum Health Colon cancer: New therapeutic approach discovered in the immune system