UBC researchers have discovered how cancer cells become invisible to the body’s immune system, a crucial step that allows tumors to metastasize and spread. As cancer cells evolve over time they may lose the ability to create a protein known as interleukein-33 (IL-33). When IL-33 disappears in the tumor, the body’s immune system has no way of recognizing the cancer cells and they can begin to metastasize.
Researchers found that the loss of IL-33 occurs in epithelial carcinomas, including prostate, kidney, breast, lung, uterine, cervical, pancreatic, skin, and many others.
Professor Wilfred Jefferies is a senior author of the study, working in the Michael Smith Laboratories and as a professor in the Departments of Medical Genetics and Microbiology and Immunology at UBC. Working with researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre to study several hundred patients, study authors found that patients with prostate or renal cancers whose tumors have lost IL-33 had more rapid recurrence of their cancer over a 5-year period. They will now begin studying whether testing for IL-33 is an effective way to monitor the progression of certain cancers.
The study, “Discovery of a metastatic immune escape mechanism initiated by the loss of expression of the tumour biomarker interleukin-33,” was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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