Eat 'em up: Next-generation therapeutic helps immune cells detect, destroy cancer

IMAGE: Confocal microscopy image shows macrophages (red) engulfing cancer cells (green). view more 

Credit: Ashish Kulkarni, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Macrophages – immune cells that engulf and digest particles and pathogens – provide a first line of defense against bacteria and viruses and can also help destroy cancer cells. Macrophages play a paradoxical role, with M1 macrophages rousing the immune system to action and M2 macrophages quelling inflammation. Researchers have found that cancer cells evade destruction by macrophages in two ways – by converting cells to become docile, M2 macrophages, and by sending out an “eat me not” signal that tricks M1 macrophages into letting them be. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a therapeutic that delivers a double whammy to knock out both mechanisms. In preclinical models, the new approach has yielded promising results. The team’s findings are published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

“Clinicians are increasingly realizing that one drug or a one-size-fits-all approach is not enough when combatting cancer, and that a combination immunotherapy, such as blocking two distinct targets in the same immune cell, is the future of immuno-oncology. Our approach capitalizes on this concept,” said co-corresponding author Ashish Kulkarni, PhD, a former


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