Scientists from the Tel Aviv University revealed in an investigation published in the specialized journal Cancer Research that white blood cells make destructive proteins that can kill cancer cells. They also have the power to summon the body’s natural agents that fight cancer: the target T. The new findings on eosinophils (one of the different cell types that is part of the immune system), may lead to the development of a new immunotherapy treatment for cancer patients.
Normally, eosinophils use their proteins to fight parasites. However, in modern and extremely hygienic societies, these germ fighters have far less work to do than in the past. As a result, they can end up causing problems like allergies and asthma when they overreact to certain substances that enter the body.
The teacher Ariel Munitz and the doctoral student Sharon Grisaru They suspected they could take eosinophils and send them off to battle cancer cells instead of parasites. “We chose to focus on lung metastases for two main reasons: first, metastases, rather than primary tumors, they are often the main problem in cancer treatment, and the lungs are an important target for the metastasis of many types of cancer. Second, in a preliminary study we demonstrated that eosinophils accumulate in tumors that develop in mucosal tissues such as the lungs and therefore we assumed that they would also be found in lung metastases, “explained Munitz.
The team began by examining human cancerous tissues from biopsies of breast cancer patients. The samples came from lung metastases after the cancer had spread to other organs. The study revealed that the white blood cells were able to reach the lung and then penetrate the cancerous tissue. From there, they released their destructive proteins, attacking the tumor.
Using animal models, the researchers also found that eosinophils can prevent cancer from metastasizing (spreading). Without the presence of eosinophils, lung metastases grew much larger than in lungs filled with white blood cells.
“We observed that when eosinophils are missing, the tissue also lacks T cells, white blood cells known to fight cancer. Consequently, it was assumed that eosinophils are capable of fighting cancer through T cells.. Our next task was to understand the mechanism underlying this process, ”Munitz clarified.
The study authors made two important discoveries about these white blood cells. First, when eosinophils detect a nearby cancer, they release large amounts of chemokines, a substance that summons T cells. Second, eosinophils release chemokines when cells come into contact with two types of substances in the cancerous environment: IFN -g and TNF-a. Simply put, when IFN-g and TNF-a appear in a cancerous area of the body, the eosinophils call for boosters and make the T cells fight.
“Increasing the number and potency of T cells is one of the main goals of immunotherapy treatments given to cancer patients today. In our study, we discovered a new interaction that summons large amounts of T cells to cancer tissues, and our findings may have therapeutic implications “, completes the specialist.
This study can serve as the basis for the development of improved immunotherapeutic drugs that use eosinophils to fight cancer in two ways, Munitz concludes: “On the one hand, eosinophils will attack the cancer directly by releasing their own destructive proteins, while on the other, they will increase the number of T cells in the cancer environment. We believe that the combined effect can significantly improve the efficacy of the treatment. “