Cancers can change locations to evade immunotherapy

April 24, 2019

According to researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, cancer may be able to avoid immunotherapies by “changing location in the body” and turning off a signaling molecule required for treatment to function. In this study, samples were collected from patients with bowel cancer across the United Kingdom.

Mini tumors were collected from these patients and tested to determine which drugs could help in assisting immunotherapy treatment. One current form of treatment, Cibisatamab, functions as a matchmaker between the immune system and cancer cells. This treatment will attach one ‘arm’ to carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), a molecule found on the surface of many forms of cancer, and another to a T cell, which helps to destroy the cancer.

When tested in the laboratory, however, scientists noted that these mini bowel cancers were able to avoid this treatment. After examination of these cells, it was discovered that they were able to decrease the amount of CEA on their cellular surface. According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Marco Gerlinger, “cancer is often very skilled at hiding from the body’s immune system. Through changing spots by altering levels of this key molecule, they become more difficult to recognize.”

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