A team of scientists has discovered a new immune cell that is able to kill many different types of cancer cells and they are hoping that this immune cell referred to as a T-cell could one day become a ‘one-size-fits’ all treatment for cancer.
The scientific team discovered that a new type of T-cells are able to detect cancerous cells and to differentiate them from healthy cells. Their research was published in the Nature Immunology journal.
T-cells are white blood cells in the immune system that fight infection and cancers. But researchers found that the new T-cells have special receptors that can zero-in on and kill the following cancers: lung, skin, leukemia, colon, breast, prostate, bone, kidney, cervical, and ovarian cancers.
These T-cell receptors are able to detect cancer cells because of their interaction with a molecule named MR1 which is found on the surface of every human cell. Researchers believe that the MR1 molecule signals the T-cell receptor of the compromised metabolism of the cell.
This discovery is the first of its kind, study co-author Garry Dolton told BBC News.
Lead author, professor Andrew Sewell, who is with the Division of Infection and Immunity at Cardiff University, located in the U.K, told Newsweek that they were actually looking for something else when they were examining samples of cells from a blood bank.
Sewell said, “All the best scientific discoveries are made by mistake.” He told The Telegraph that the finding was a serendipitous occurrence and raises the hopeful prospect that this T-cell will be a ‘one-size-fits’ all treatment for destroying many types of different cancers in the human populace. No one ever thought, he said, that this could be possible.
The scientists are hoping that this discovery will lead to important steps in immunotherapy to treat cancers. It will be another way in using the body’s immune system to demolish the disease.
Astero Klampatsa, who is a team leader in cancer immunotherapy at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, did not work on the study, but she explains that CAR-T therapy is one such way that the body’s immune system is used to fight cancer cells. However, CAR-T therapy has to be engineered for each patient individually making it very expensive and labor some and cannot be used to treat solid tumors.
Experts in the field are saying the discovery of the T-cell is ‘very exciting’ and are hopeful it will lead to the basis of new immune therapies for cancer patients.