Never-Seen-Before Immune Cell Discovery Could Become "Universal" Cancer Treatment

Researchers from Cardiff University say this could be a "one size fits all" cancer therapy.
Fabienne Lang
A T-cell attacking a cancer cellMaurizio de Angeles/iStock

Scientists have discovered a new part of our immune system, one that could be used to treat all cancers. 

Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales have discovered a new way of killing cancers ranging from the prostate to lung, and breast, among others, during lab tests. 

Their findings were published in the journal Nature Immunology on Monday.


Testing has yet to happen on humans

The discovery is still in its early stages, but the team of researchers is thrilled with the "enormous potential" this has. 

Never-Seen-Before Immune Cell Discovery Could Become "Universal" Cancer Treatment
Professor Andrew Sewell and Research Fellow Gary Dolton in the lab, Source: Cardiff University

The scientists were searching for undiscovered ways our immune system naturally attacks tumors or cancerous cells. In doing so, they found a T-cell inside people's blood. This is an immune cell that scans the body to check if there's a potential threat that needs to be eradicated 

The difference, in this case, is that the T-cell can attack a wide range of cancers. 

Researcher and Professor Andrew Sewell told the BBC that "There's a chance here to treat every patient. Previously nobody believed this could be possible."

"It raises the prospect of 'one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population," he continued. 

How does a T-cell work?

The team at Cardiff University discovered that these T-cells have receptors on their surface. These can find and kill a wide range of cancerous cells including skin, lung, blood, colon, breast, bone, ovarian, kidney, and cervical cancer cells.

What's even more important is that it left normal, healthy tissues untouched. 

How this happens is still being looked into. 

Research fellow, Gary Dolton also told the BBC "We are the first to describe a T-cell that finds MR1 in cancer cells - that hasn't been done before, this is the first of its kind."

So far, tests have only been carried out in the lab or on animals. The next step is to make it safe to trial on humans.

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