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Monday, November 8, 2010

Scientists Discover Cancer Hides from Immune System

Researchers at Cambridge University discovered how tumor cells protect themselves from the body's natural defenses. According to the paper in Science, a protein known as FAP (fibroblast activation protein alpha) stops the body's immune system from attacking the rogue cancer cells. The protein is found in stromal cells – a kind of tissue cell that usually races to the scene of a wound to aid healing. Thus, the cancer can "trick the body into thinking it is an injury and instead of destroying the tumours, it actually nurtures them," a deception that has thwarted the development of vaccines and other treatments which rely on the body's immune system to work.

The team made their breakthrough discovery after creating a mouse in which FAP-producing cells could be eliminated. "When this happened in animals with well-established lung tumours, the cancer rapidly shrunk. Only 2% of the cells within these tumours actually produced FAP, so the scientists are convinced that they had a far wider role in protecting the tumour from the immune system."

Dr. Grout’s comment:

Cancer has long been called the “wound that never heals.” What if, instead of trying to kill the cancer cells right off the bat, we actually tried to help the body break up the scar tissue surrounding them – after, of course, ensuring that the body’s own natural killer cells were up to the task of eliminating foreign cells? Would that not be a novel concept in the annals of medical therapeutics?

First prepare the terrain – clear the decks, as it were – then bring out the soldiers to destroy what remains of the enemy. And make no mistake, cancer is the enemy. But remember always that it started out as one of us, and anything that we do to one of us is going to have an effect on all of us – just like in life. Cancer is the mini-battleground that we are seeing all over the world – both in populations and in environment. So first we deal with the environment, then it is much easier to deal with the populations.

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