Scientists find a way to trigger a long-lasting anti-cancer immune response

Scientists finds a method that might work against all types of cancers in humans. They successfully tested the method in mice to kill tumors and initiate long-lasting anti-cancer immunity.
Rupendra Brahambhatt
3D Rendering of a cancer cell.jpg

About 30 years ago, scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Texas discovered a family of genes called steroid receptor coactivators (SRCs). In a recently published study, a team of researchers from BCM claims that deleting SRC-3 from animal immunity cells leads to the death of tumors and provides long-lasting protection from cancer.

SRC-3 is a member of the SRC gene family, and according to the study authors, it is involved in promoting tumor growth in all types of cancers that affect humans. The gene is expressed in Tregs (regulatory T cells), immune cells that prevent autoimmune disorders by suppressing our body’s immune response. 

Tregs are known to carry many SRC-3 genes and play a significant role in shaping the immune response against cancer. When researchers eliminated the SRC-3 genes in Tregs of mice having cancer, they noticed that this one step killed all the tumors and triggered a lifelong anti-cancer immune response in their bodies.

Highlighting the importance of their study, the first author and a professor at BCM, Sang Jun Han, said, “Other published treatments seem to reduce tumor burden or eliminate cancer for some time, but in most cases, it returns. Our findings in animal models are the first to show that Tregs lacking SRC-3 eradicate established cancer tumors and appear to confer long-lasting protection against recurrence.”

SRC-3 might be the key to the perfect cancer cure

The high quantity of SRC-3 genes in Tregs raised doubt in the minds of the researchers. They wanted to know whether or not SRC-3 was involved in regulating cancer growth. So they decided to perform a series of experiments on prostate and breast cancer mouse models. 

During the first experiment, they compared breast cancer proliferation in two groups of mice; the first group had average concentrations of SRC-3 genes, whereas the second group members completely lacked SRC-3 in their Tregs.  

“We were surprised by the results, breast tumors were eradicated in the SRC-3 knock-outs. A subsequent injection of additional cancer cells in these mice did not give rise to new tumors, showing that there was no need to generate additional SRC-3 knock-outs to sustain tumor resistance,” said Bert W. O’Malley, study author and Chancellor at BCM. 

Interestingly, when they transferred Tregs lacking SRC-3 genes in another group of mice with breast cancer and prostate cancer, it successfully wiped out cancer in those subjects as well. 

They noticed that the modified T-cells released chemicals that performed two functions. First, they allowed natural killer cells and T-cells to attack the tumor directly. Second, they prevent other immune cells from supporting cancer growth and blocking anti-cancer activity while the tumors are being killed. 

According to the study authors, this dual action of the SRC-lacking Tregs eliminates existing cancer cells and leaves no scope for their recurrence in the future. Moreover, during all the abovementioned experiments, they observed no adverse side effects in any mouse models.

If successful in humans, it could give rise to a revolutionary, side-effect-free cancer therapy. To commercialize this anti-cancer method, the researchers have joined hands with a biopharma company CoRegen. Hopefully, this partnership will lead to the perfect cancer cure we need. 

The study is published in the journal PNAS.

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