The lab of CIC member, Tim Bullock, has discovered a defect in immune cells known as “killer T cells” that explains their inability to destroy cancer tumors. The researchers believe that repairing this defect could make the cells much better cancer killers. Further, they predict their discovery could be used within three to five years to help identify patients who will best respond to cancer therapies.
The finding could be a significant boost to the burgeoning field of immunotherapy, which aims to harness the body’s immune defenses to defeat cancer. The discovery could also let doctors better predict and assess how well a patient responds to treatment.
“For a long time, the presence of immune cells in cancer has been associated with a better outcome in patients, but it’s not really been clear why the immune cells haven’t been able to control the cancer. What is the cancer doing?” said researcher Timothy Bullock, PhD. “This [finding] gives us plenty of opportunity to come in with interventions to invigorate these T cells and level the playing field substantially so they’re much more competitive.”