Evasive Action

Survival Molecule Helps Cancer Cells Hide From the Immune System

Denis GuttridgeA molecule that helps cancer cells evade programmed self-destruction might also help malignant cells hide from another source of death: the immune system.

A study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) showed that a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) helps cancer cells suppress the immune system’s ability to detect and destroy them. The molecule regulates genes that suppress immune surveillance mechanisms and that lead to the production of cells that inhibit the immune response.

The findings suggest that immune therapy for cancer might be more effective if combined with drugs that inhibit NF-kB. They also provide new details about how interactions between cancer cells and noncancer cells assist tumor growth.

“We’ve long known that NF-kB promotes cancer development by subverting apoptosis, an internal safety mechanism that otherwise would cause cancer cells to self-destruct,” says principal investigator Denis Guttridge, PhD, a professor in the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at Ohio State.

“This study shows that NF-kB might coordinate a network of immune-suppressor genes whose products enable tumor cells to evade adaptive immunity,” adds Guttridge, who also co-leads the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James. “Therefore, inhibiting NF-kB might make tumor cells more vulnerable to elimination by the immune system.”

Guttridge credits the paper’s first author, David J. Wang, for developing many of the study’s concepts.

Published in the journal Cell Reports.

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