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Researchers reveal way to ‘activate’ immune system against cancer

Discovery could allow enhanced activity of the immune system to attack cancer cells, in particular in cases of lung cancer and melanoma

Science Photo Library Image caption The therapy causes prostate cancer cells to self destruct

A new study discovers a new mechanism for activating the immune system against cancer cells. The mechanism allows immune cells to detect and destroy cancer cells in particular in cases of lung cancer and melanoma and melanoma.

The study led by Professor Nick Haining, of Harvard Medical School, and by Israeli Prof. Erez Levanon of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, published in the journal Nature.

The team has discovered that when inhibiting this mechanism, the immune system can be harnessed to fight cancer cells in a, particularly efficient manner. “We found that if the mechanism is blocked, the immune system is much more sensitive,” Levanon said. “When the mechanism is deactivated, the immune system becomes much more aggressive against the tumor cells.”

The study focused on a mechanism that routinely serves the cell by marking human virus-like-genes in order to avoid identifying them as viruses. Recent years have seen the development of cancer drugs developed with blocks proteins that inhibit immune activity against several tumor types.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo, for discovering the key genes of this mechanism.

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