Scientists Report They Have Discovered the ‘Achilles heel’ of Cancer

A potentially groundbreaking discovery has been made by scientists at the University College London (UCL) who report that findings help understand how the immune system can fight back against tumours “even when the disease is at its most advanced stages“. In the research, scientists isolated specialised immune cells called T-Cells, from two lung cancer patients.

The study, published in Science Magazine, was funded by both the Rosetrees Trust and Cancer Research UK. UCL have said that the research paves the way for therapies that will specifically activate these T-Cells to target tumour cells based on the disease’s genetic signature.

“This is exciting. There was evidence that complex tumours with many mutations could increase the chance of the immune system spotting them; now we can prioritise and target tumour antigens (substances that cause an immune system to produce antibodies against it) that are present in every cell, the Achilles heel of these highly complex cancers.” said Professor Charles Swanton, co-author of the report.

“This is really fascinating, and takes personalised medicine to its absolute limit where each patient would have a unique, bespoke treatment.”
Scientists Report They Have Discovered the ‘Achilles Heel’ of Cancer

‘Wipe out the problem for good’

“The body’s immune system acts as the police trying to tackle cancer, the criminals. Genetically diverse tumours are like a gang of hoodlums involved in different crimes – from robbery to smuggling. And the immune system struggles to keep on top of the cancer – just as it’s difficult for police when there’s so much going on.” Added Dr Sergio Quezada, fellow co-author.

“Our research shows that instead of aimlessly chasing crimes in different neighbourhoods, we can give the police the information they need to get to the kingpin at the root of all organised crime – or the weak spot in a patient’s tumour – to wipe out the problem for good.”

It has been an exciting time within cancer research with a recent Study in the US also hailed for its extraordinary results.

Some 35 people, 94% of participants in one study, with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia saw symptoms vanish completely. Patients with other blood cancers had response rates greater than 80%, and more than half experienced complete remission.

These stories highlight how important it is for this research to be conducted, keep up the good work everyone!

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