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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Cancer vaccine hope after cell find

5th November 2010

A team of scientists from Cambridge University believe they may have found a reason behind the failure of anti-cancer vaccines.

Writing in the journal Science, they suspect it may be linked to a normal cell - known as stromal cells – that are part of the body’s connective tissue and is often found in cancerous growths.

By eliminating some of these cells in mice, the Cambridge team managed to shrink their lung tumours.

The findings suggest that in tumours, the presence of these normal cells is holding back the immune system from attacking the tumours.

The relevance from the perspective of vaccines used as treatment is that in cancer patients the aim is to increase this immune response.

The stromal cells involved in the study have a protein on their surface called fibroblast activation protein alpha (FAP), which normally has a role in wound healing.

Professor Douglas Fearon said: “Further studying how these cells exert their effects may contribute to improved immunological therapies by allowing us to remove a barrier that the cancer has constructed.

“These studies are in the mouse and although there is much overlap between the mouse and human immune systems, we will not know the relevance of these findings in humans until we are able to interrupt the function of the tumour stromal cells expressing FAP in patients with cancer.”

Cancer Research UK welcomed the research which it said offered “exciting clues” as to how tumours could recruit healthy cells to help them evade the immune system.


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