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Immune Control of Tumors – Th1 Cells Mediate Growth Arrest

Neuherberg - Th1 cells, key players of the immune system, can drive tumors into a form of permanent dormancy, enabling immune control of the tumor cells. These findings, reported in a study conducted by the Department of Dermatology of Tübingen University Hospital and recently published in ‘Nature’, may open up new avenues for cancer therapy. The Institute of Molecular Immunology (IMI) at Helmholtz Zentrum München contributed substantially to the study.

Immune Control of Tumors – Th1 Cells Mediate Growth Arrest

Image: Tissue section of a melanoma (skin cancer), the red-stained cells are in senescence, i.e. permanent growth arrest.

An immune response mediated by Th1 cells can induce growth arrest in tumors. This is effectuated by different cytokines that inhibit cell growth and the formation of blood vessels. The tumor cells are not destroyed, but rather are driven into a protracted state of tumor dormancy called senescence. In this way, the body regains immune control of the tumor cells.

The joint study was led by Professor Martin Röcken as well as Dr. Heidi Braumüller and Professor Thomas Wieder with an interdisciplinary team of scientists of the Department of Dermatology of Tübingen University Hospital, in collaboration with the Institute of Molecular Immunology (IMI) at Helmholtz Zentrum München. In an islet cell tumor (a tumor in the pancreas), the researchers investigated the complex functioning of the immune response and were able to identify the key molecules and cytokines involved that arrest tumor growth. These processes could be confirmed on different tumor cell lines, including melanoma and rhabdomyosarcoma cells. “These findings give us a basic understanding of the mechanisms of the immune response,” said Professor Ralph Mocikat of the IMI. “Thus, we can establish new forms of immunotherapy and thereby develop a new treatment option for cancer diseases.”

Moreover, understanding such complex immune responses is important for research into other diseases. Similar mechanisms are involved, in particular in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Therefore, the induction or inhibition of cell senescence may be an important approach for the therapeutic use of immune control.

Further information

 

Original publication:
Braumüller, H. et al. (2013), TH1 Cell Cytokines drive Cancer into Senescence, Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature11824.

Link to publication

Helmholtz Zentrum München, as German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The head office of the Center is located in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München has a staff of about 2,000 people and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de

The Institute of Molecular Immunology (IMI) performs application-oriented basic research at the interface of immunology, oncology and molecular biology. The objectives of the Institute are to elucidate the basic mechanisms of the immune system, to understand the pathogenesis of immunologically mediated diseases and to directly transfer insights gained in basic research into clinical applications. The Institute focuses on developing new personalized treatment strategies for the targeted modulation of the immune system.

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Scientific contact in Helmholtz Zentrum München
Prof. Ralph Mocikat, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute of Molecular Immunology, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany - Phone: +49(0)89-3187-1310

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