Scientists from the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in the US have discovered an antibody that can improve the immune system's ability to fight different types of cancer and reduce tumor growth, making it an attractive candidate for immunotherapy.
In a new study published in the journal Science Immunology, researchers found that the antibody that can precisely target regulatory T cells which in turn unleashes the immune system to kill cancer cells.
Researchers, who were studying the underpinnings of multiple sclerosis, found that the antibody decreased tumor growth in models of skin, brain and colon cancer.
Howard Weiner, from BWH stated, "My team studied a sub population of T cells that are supposed to prevent autoimmune disease, we had an idea".
"If cancer is the opposite of an autoimmune disease, we could turn our investigations around and think about how to restore the immune system's ability to prevent cancer's growth", Weiner said.
T cells (Tregs), which help maintain the immune system's tolerance of self, are also reponsilble for cancer's growth by preventing the body's immune system from detecting and attacking cancer cells.
The researchers found that they could precisely target Tregs using an antibody that locks in on a molecular complex that's uniquely expressed on the cell surface of Tregs.
The team developed these 'anti-LAP' antibodies initially to investigate the development of multiple sclerosis, but realised that their work had implications for the study ofcancer.
Previous studies have shown that LAP+ cells are increased in human cancer and predict a poor prognosis. Being able to target these cells could offer a new way to treat the disease.
In the current study, researchers studied how well anti-LAP antibodies could work in blocking the essential mechanisms of Tregs and restoring the immune system's ability to fight cancer.
They found that anti-LAP acts on multiple cell populations to promote the immune system's ability to fight cancer, including increasing the activity of certain types of T cells and enhancing immune memory.
"In addition to studying its therapeutic effect, we wanted to characterise the mechanism by which the anti-LAP antibody can activate the immune system", said Galina Gabriely, a scientist in the Weiner laboratory.
"We found that it affects multiple arms of the immune system", said Gabriely.