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Super killer T-cells found in patients who beat cancer, say scientists

The novel super T cells or immune cells were discovered to be more effective against numerous cancer proteins than other killer T cells


Super killer T-cells found in patients who beat cancer, say scientists

Sonika Nitin Nimje New Delhi

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Researchers have found a formerly unknown immune cell that forms in patients who effectively fight cancer. Unlike other killer T cells, these home in on various cancer-associated areas, helping prevent more tumours from forming for as long as a year later. The scientists believe this could prove instrumental in curing cancer. 

Our immune system is designed to protect us against all kinds of disease, including life-threatening ones like cancer, but sometimes it needs to be boosted to fight more severe forms of illnesses. This is what’s called immunotherapy, which involves removal of immune cells from a patient’s body, supercharging them and injecting them back into the body to fight cancer cells more effectively.  

Super killer T-cells: Insights

Scientists at Cardiff University examined the treatments given to two cancer patients, among which one was successful and the other one wasn’t. For over a decade, they observed a stage I and II clinical trial of these patients, examining the Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte (TIL) therapy that includes the white blood cells in the patient's tumour.

The focus of the study was on patients who successfully treated the disease after the treatment. The blood cells of the patients were compared with the tumour cells extracted earlier, and it was found the patient’s killer T cells continued to show strong responses even after a year of remission. Algorithms were employed to determine which targets these T cells were recognizing, and to the scientists’ surprise, it was found that these ‘super T cells’ were identifying multiple protein changes in carcinogenic cells in the body. The normal T cell, on the other hand, only targets one protein at a time. 

Professor Andy Sewell, lead researcher on the study, said that “a multipronged killer T cell from a cancer survivor was shown to be substantially better at recognizing cancer than a normal anticancer killer T cell”. 

The researchers, therefore, found a large number of these cells in the bodies of cancer patients who had successfully defeated cancer, while none were found in patients who had not. Although more work is needed to establish a clear link between these super cells and the treatment of cancer, this is thought to be a breakthrough in the field. 

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First Published: Jul 25 2023 | 6:03 PM IST

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