Some immune cells in the body help cancer thrive, a new study says. Scientists have found that these immune cells, called myeloid derived suppressor cells, aid cancer growth, however, these ‘traitor’ cells could be used as potential targets to treat the disease.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that these immune cells provide a niche where the cancer stem cells survive.
The cancer stem cells are believed to be resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, hence, posing serious threats for complete cure. Researchers believe that killing the cancer stem cells is crucial for eliminating cancer.
“This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive,” said senior study author Weiping Zou, Charles B de Nancrede Professor of surgery, immunology and biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone,” Zou said.
The researchers believe the immune cells give the cancer cells their “stemness” – those properties that allow the cells to be so lethal – and that without this immune cell, the cancer stem cells may not efficiently progress.