21 November 2014
STING - a recently discovered protein complex - plays a significant role in finding tumour cells and encouraging an aggressive anti-tumour response from the body's immune system, new studies have suggested.
Published in the journal Immunity, both pieces of research could have major implications for the growing field of cancer therapies. The University of Chicago-based teams have demonstrated that an activated STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) pathway triggers a natural immune response to attack the tumour.
Part of this process activates chemical signals that help the immune system to target tumour cells and generate specific killer T cells. The team also found that high-dose radiation therapy can boost this response.
"We have learned a great deal recently about what we call checkpoints, the stumbling blocks that prevent the immune system from ultimately destroying cancers," said Thomas Gajewski, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Chicago and senior author of one of the studies.
Professor Gajewski added that a blockade of immune checkpoints, such as with anti-PD-1, can help some patients but many will be unresponsive. Better understanding the role of STING will allow teams to determine how the immune response against tumours can be woken.
Posted by Philip Briggs
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