Cancer research: Immune response gives hope for new therapies
Black skin cancer, known in technical terms as malignant melanoma, is one of the deadliest types of skin cancer. The body’s immune system recognizes cancer cells, but the immune response is often too weak to destroy cancer cells. A German research team is now reporting a new approach that aims to boost the body’s own immune response.
A joint working group of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Duisburg-Essen and the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research reports in the journal “Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer” a new approach to black skin cancer, in which new drugs are intended to enhance the immune response against melanoma cells.
Why skin cancer immunotherapies don’t always work
Clinical trials are now testing new immunomodulatory drugs for melanoma, which are injected locally into the tumor or metastases to boost the body’s own immune response against the cancer cells.
Melanoma cells are able to respond to such approaches and can mutate to become increasingly resistant to the body’s immune response. Scientists involved in the current study have now found a way for the immune system to attack resistant cancer cells.
Melanoma cells enter a dormant state
Previous research in this area has shown that the enormous plasticity of melanoma cells is responsible for their ability to adapt. Cancer cells can go into a sort of resting phase. In this state, they escape attacks from the immune system.
In particular, drug therapies to promote the immune response stimulate melanoma cells to enter such a dormant state. In this state, cancer cells are called persistent cells.
New drugs should make lingering cells vulnerable
In the present study, the working group was able to show for the first time that the immune system is also capable of recognizing and attacking such persistent cells, raising hopes for new cancer therapies with immunomodulatory drugs.
Experimental black skin cancer drug
In the current study, the researchers treated tumor cells from melanoma metastases with a new immunomodulatory drug called the RIG-I agonist.
The team then looked in detail at the effects on melanoma cell survival, phenotype and differentiation.
“We were able to show that the melanoma cells went from actively growing to a dedifferentiated resting state during this treatment,” explains Prof. Dr. Annette Paschen of the study team.
“However, persistent dormant cells could still be recognized by tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes,” explains the scientist.
New hope for improved immunotherapy
Overall, the results indicate that “this type of immunomodulatory drug may be a useful therapeutic approach in the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma,” summarize the study authors. The efficacy has yet to be confirmed by ongoing clinical studies. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
University Hospital Essen: Melanoma Research: Immune Response Despite Resting State (Published: July 13, 2022), idw-online.deThier B, Zhao F, Stupia S, et al. Innate immune receptor signaling induces transient melanoma dedifferentiation while preserving immunogenicity; in: Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (2022), doi: 10.1136/jitc-2021-003863., jitc.bmj.com
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.