(February 22, 2016) Imagine a lighthouse on cancer cells that can tell the T-cells in our immune system precisely where to attack to stop cancer in its tracks. When working properly, that’s exactly what dendritic cells do. They break down cancer cells into antigens that T-cells can “read” and know to attack while sparing healthy cells.
The problem is that dendritic cells don’t behave that way in ovarian cancer cells. When dendritic cells don’t receive the proper signals to create antigens, they end up suppressing the immune system and helping the tumor grow and spread.
OCRF grantee Jose Conejo-Garcia, MD, PhD of The Wistar Institute led a team of scientists (including OCRF grantee Alfredo Perales-Puchalt, MD) to pinpoint what’s causing dendritic cells to behave this way in ovarian cancer. The culprit is a gene called Satb1. Results of the study were published in Cell Reports.
The gene is required for the immune system to work properly, but if the gene remains in ovarian cancer cells longer than it’s required to stay, it suppresses the immune system and promotes inflammation. If researchers can figure out a way to manipulate the gene, it might lead to immunotherapies that could be used to treat ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer.