Scientists can now reduce tumour growth by suppressing autophagy in cancer cells
A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that serves no purpose on the human body. This Tumor is what leads to cancer. However, scientists have discovered the Natural Killer (NK) Cells, lymphocytes of the innate immune system with strong cytotoxic activity. It plays a major role in the immune response against tumors. Lymphocytes are one of several different types of white blood cells which work in fighting against illness and diseases. The bone marrow constantly produces cells that will become lymphocytes. Some enters the bloodstream but most move through the lymphatic system which is made up of tissues and organs like the Spleen, Tonsils and the lymph nodes that protects the body from Infections.
However, the tumor cells can circumvent this immune defense by establishing a surrounding microenvironment that prevents the infiltration of the Natural Killer Cells and thus promotes tumor survival and growth. By studying Melanoma which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, Dr Bassam Janji and his team at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) has revealed a mechanism by which the immunosuppressive environment can be switched to an immunosupportive one.
It was discovered that if autophagy; a natural, regulated and destructive mechanism of the cell that disassembles unnecessary or dysfunctional components, is blocked in the tumor cells, they produce cytokines that attack NK cells.
A critical hallmark of the maligmant progression of the tumors is evasion and suppression of the immune system. This occurs through the ability of the tumor cells to develop an immunosuppressive microenvironment preventing Cytotoxic immune cells such as NK cells to infiltrate tumors and kill cancer cells. Therefore, a key issue in the field of anticancer immunotherapy is to develop strategies capable of driving cytotoxic immune cells into the tumor bed.
Tumor growth can be reduced by suppressing autophagy in cancer cells and the massive recruitment of Natural Killer (NK) cells allows killing cancer cells and let the tumor shrink.