How tumor cells evade the immune system

August 04, 2020

Exploring how cancer cells evade the immune system: (from left) Dr. Maike Effern, Dr. Nicole Glodde and Prof. Dr. Michael Hölzel. © Barbara Frommann / Uni Bonn

 

A new study by the University of Bonn and research institutions in Australia and Switzerland shows the strategies that tumor cells use to avoid being attacked by the imune system.
The method developed for this work contributes to a better understanding of the "arms race" between immune defense and disease. The results could help to improve modern therapeutic approaches and were published in 'Immunity'.

Cancer cells differ from healthy body cells - by their appearance, by their behavior, by the genes that are active in them. Often this does not go unnoticed: the immune system registers that something is wrong and sends its troops to fight the tumor. However, this answer is often too weak to keep cancer at bay in the long term or even to destroy it. Scientists have therefore been trying to strengthen the immune system's response for many years.

Many tumors have developed strategies that can help them escape the immune system. "In our study, we examined what these strategies look like and what they depend on," explains Dr. Maike Effern from the Institute of Experimental Oncology at the University Hospital Bonn. "We focused on melanoma cells, i.e. black skin cancer."

"When T cells were directed against genes that are responsible for melanoma-typical traits, we observed that the cancer cells changed their appearance and suppressed these genes over time," explains Effern's colleague Dr. Nicole Glodde. "So they hid from the immune system."

"Our work may open the way to more effective immunotherapy," hopes Prof. Dr. Michael Hölzel, head of the Institute of Experimental Oncology at the University Hospital Bonn and member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation at the University of Bonn. "The method we developed also allows us to better understand the processes by which cancer cells slip under the radar of the immune system."

You can find the german press release here.

Publication: Maike Effern, Nicole Glodde, Matthias Braun, Jana Liebing, Helena N. Boll, Michelle Yong, Emma Bawden, Daniel Hinze, Debby van den Boorn-Konijnenberg, Mila Daoud, Pia Aymans, Jennifer Landsberg, Mark J. Smyth, Lukas Flatz, Thomas Tüting, Tobias Bald, Thomas Gebhardt, Michael Hölzel: Adoptive T cell therapy targeting different gene products reveals diverse and context-dependent immune evasion in melanoma. Immunity

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Michael Hölzel
Institute of Experimental Oncology, Unversity Hospital Bonn
Phone: 0228/287-12170
E-Mail: michael.hoelzel@ukbonn.de