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New immunotherapy-based cancer research limits cancer spread by 75%

Published on 12/01/17 at 09:52am

Research conducted by the Sanger Institute in Cambridge has discovered 23 new genes associated with cancer cell’s spread through the body, identifying one that reduced the spread of tumours by 75%. The study was conducted in mice that had been genetically engineered to be missing certain specified genes and were then injected with melanomas to examine the difference in cancer spread.

In total, 810 sets of genetically modified lab mice were produced to identify which section of DNA was able to limit the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. One particular gene was found to be the most effective at limiting the spread of cancer, Spns2. This particular gene, when missing from the mice, saw a reduction of three-quarters of spread of cancer.

The study displayed that in mice where the gene was not present, the immune system increased the number of tumour-fighting immune cells that appeared in the lungs of the mice. This could be particularly significant in developing immunotherapy-based treatments, which harness the body’s natural ability to protect itself.

Dr Anneliese Speak from the Sanger Institute, said: "This work supports the emerging area of immunotherapy, where the bodies' own immune system is harnessed to fight cancer. Drugs could be designed to bind to the S1P transporter, preventing it from working and causing advantageous changes to the immune system. Investigation of further targets in the Spns2 pathway, or other targets identified in this study could help develop potential therapies."

As yet, it is not known whether the same process occurs in humans as in mice. The research will have to be continued and furthered into human trials in the future to identify this. However, it adds to a recent glut of news being released discovering how cancer cells are able to bypass physical barriers to spread through the body and how cancer cells begin to spread before tumours develop

Ben Hargreaves

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