Slowing Down Cancer with Immunotherapy Breakthrough

One of the greatest hurdles in our fight against cancer can be our own immune system, as it often self-sabotages the body’s attempts to fight invading tumours. Researchers from the University of Bonn have recently found a way to get around this immune response, using immunotherapy to achieve a significant delay in cancer growth, which thereby allows cancer sufferers to live longer as the progression of their disease is slowed down.

The human immune system has a series of natural ‘brakes’ – a mechanism that stops our bodies from triggering an excessive response when foreign materials infect us. These immunological checkpoints are normal for bodily function, but also pose a problem for the immune system when cancer cells start to form.

This is because the tumours can take advantage of these ‘brakes’ by posing as the body’s own tissue and effectively hiding in plain sight. T cells, which destroy infected cells including cancerous ones, can be fooled by the tumours which are then protected by the cells which are meant to defeat them.

In recent immunotherapy trials, German researchers have been able to use one of the body’s natural proteins – IKKß inhibitor – to release the ‘brakes’. IKKß inhibitor is a known immune-stimulant that promotes the activation of immune cells.

Researchers mixed a pharmaceutical ingredient with IKKß in a test tube to try and block (and subsequently kill off) the regulatory T cells, leaving the killer T cells space to grow. As such, they could significantly increase the impact of the killer T cells on the invading cancerous cells.

Two weeks of this treatment on mice with skin cancer halved the number of regulatory T cells and made the killer cells stronger, but it did not totally cure the mice from the disease. It did, however, increase their period of survival.

Lead author Professor Christian Kurts said, “Complete healing cannot be achieved solely by inhibiting IKKß. However, the method might stimulate the immune system to more effectively combat cancer.”

Researchers hope the trial could pave the way for more effective therapies in the future.

Click here to read about more recent research in immunotherapy.



Gallagher, S. (October 18, 2017.) Scientists Discover How To Remove The ‘Brakes’ From Our Immune System. Huffington Post

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