According to a recent article in MedicalXpress, in 2004 Professor Sophie Lucas of the Louvain de Duve Institute began studying immunosuppressive cells that are known to block immune responses in the body.
Cancer immunotherapy is a phrase that we hear quite often. It can be described simply as manipulating the body’s natural immune responses in the fight against cancer.
Quite often though molecules or cells block the immune response and prevent the immune system from killing the cancer cells. That allows the tumors to take hold and grow.
Professor Lucas’ first effort in 2004 involved researching how tumors evade the immune system. She believed that this would shed light on the way in which immunosuppressive cells function.
Her team was tasked with identifying and removing the cells that were blocking the tumor’s immune response. They searched and identified the cells as being regulatory T lymphocytes (Tregs). These cells can be extremely immunosuppressive in patients with cancer. Removing them stimulates antibodies that cause the regression of tumors.
Another milestone occurred in 2009 when Professor Lucas, discovered a molecule on Tregs’ surface called Glycoprotein A repetitions predominant (GARP).
This research continued until 2018 when Professor Lucas announced that GARP’s role was to act as Tregs’ messenger and send out signals to block immune responses.
The discovery, published in the journal Science, gave new insight into the mechanism and functions of Tregs. Professor Lucas is in the process of developing anti-GARP antibodies. It is a tool that precludes GARP from sending out blocking signals.
Professor Lucas’ Research Was Successful
Professor Lucas and her associates continued their research into GARP until 2020 when they announced having success in neutralizing a molecule in mice that impacts the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.
Using anti-GARP antibodies, the scientists neutralized Tregs in mice, unblocking immune responses and allowing them to once again destroy cancer cells.
Results of the first tests conducted by Professor Lucas and her team were published in August 2020 in the journal Nature Communications. These tests prove that tumor regression is indeed possible. As the scientists proclaimed: “It works!”
The researchers are now ready to conduct clinical trials on humans. They hope to bring an effective treatment solution to the battle against cancer.