Immunotherapy strategies targeting aging tumor cells

Korean researchers have discovered the existence of chemical barriers to protect cancer cells from immune cell attacks.

According to the Korea Research Foundation, a research team led by Park Tae-joon, Kim Jang-hee, and Choi Yong-won of Ajou University Medical School confirmed that aging tumor cells present in colorectal cancer interfered with intrusions in immune cells and weakened immune cells’s activity, creating a favorable environment for colon cancer progress.

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Image source: the NRF

The aging cells stop splitting, but their metabolism is so active that they create various substances. This causes problems in many diseases.

The presence of these aging tumor cells is also known in progressive cancer, but how they affect the progression of cancer had been unknown.

The research team confirmed the existence of aging tumor cells in rectified colorectal cancer tissues, and furthermore observed that the more ageing tumor cells exist, the slower the penetration of immune cells (cellotoxic T cells) that attack cancer cells become.

To find out the cause, the team examined the secretions found on the surface of aging tumor cells using genetic analysis and immuno-tissue chemical dyeing methods. They found two types of cytokines that cause immune cell deterioration.

CXCL12, a type of chemokine, has been shown to inhibit intracellular infiltration of cytotoxic T cells, and the cytokine CSF1 promotes differentiation of macrophages that induce immunosuppression, resulting in decreased functionality of cytotoxic T cells.

By revealing that aging tumor cells present in colorectal cancer can be involved in the progress of cancer, it is expected to serve as a starting point for a new treatment strategy targeting aging tumor cells or aging-related secretions to treat colon cancer with low immune anti-cancer drugs.

The findings, supported by the Ministry of Education and the Korea Research Foundation, were published in the international journal Advanced Science on January 4.

Source: Korea Research Foundation press release

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