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New Research Reveals Cancer-Killing Properties of an Immune Cell

In recent years, immunotherapy – a treatment approach that empowers the body’s own immune system against cancers – has emerged as a promising avenue for pediatric cancer research. Notably, just this month, preclinical findings published in the science journal Cell suggest that a type of immune cell previously linked to fighting allergens, parasites and certain viruses can also be helpful in killing cancer cells.

The paper, submitted by researchers at City of Hope National Medical Center, focuses on the immunotherapeutic potential of human type 2 innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2s.

Illustration of human immune cells attacking cancer cells

According to the City of Hope research findings, human ILC2s not only attack cancer cells in the human body, but can be expanded outside the body and applied in larger numbers to overpower a tumor’s defenses and eliminate malignant cells in mouse models with cancer. This comes after previous research found no consistent cancer-killing abilities in native mouse ILC2s cells, indicating that human ILC2s work differently than mouse ILC2s.

In a press release issued by City of Hope, Dr. Jianhua Yu, a professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope and senior study author, had this to say:

The research performed by Yu’s team involved isolating human ILC2s from blood samples, then expanding the harvested ILC2s 2000x using a novel platform the team developed. The team then injected the ILC2s into mice engrafted with human pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and glioblastoma solid tumors. The result? The ILC2s attacked and successfully killed these tumors.

What’s more, when researchers placed a single tumor cell alongside a single ILC2 cell, they found that the tumor cell died while the ILC2 survived, suggesting that ILC2s’ cancer-fighting properties are effective even in the absence of all other cells.

Though acknowledging that this research is still in its early days, Yu and his team say they plan to continue investigating the immunotherapeutic capabilities of ILC2s. This includes finding ways of translating their discoveries into tangible clinical benefits, as well as exploring additional applications for ILC2s beyond cancer treatment.

Anyone interested in learning more about City of Hope’s findings can read the full press release here or the paper published in Cell here. Don’t forget to follow the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation Profectus blog to stay up-to-date with all the latest news shaping the future of pediatric cancer treatment!