Discovery of T-cells Hidden in Bone Marrow Can Help Beat Brain Cancer


Not a single type of immunotherapy is available or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating brain cancer. None of the trials have borne good clinical results. However, recently in a research at Duke University, a breakthrough discovery has been made which may turn the tables around.

Peter E. Fecci, M.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the Department of Neurosurgery in Duke University. He reveals the key information regarding the research; researchers have found that the most integral parts of the immune system known as T-cells which disappear from the immune system in brain cancer, were found hidden in the bone marrow of the patients. If we return these T-cells to their respective places, immunotherapy can work better against brain cancer.

Cancer tends to take upon the body’s immune system, causing T-cell dysfunction which needs to be activated to reboot immune system. GBM (glioblastoma) in particular is very immune suppressive tumor; T-cell are actually missing in the body. Previously, it was thought it occurred due to radiation or chemotherapy or maybe steroids whereas it is discovered now that patient had an immune system of an older person way before getting any treatment. T-cells were looked for in the blood and spleen, but there weren’t any there as well as the lymphoid organs appeared shrunken – an eccentric symptom to take place.

Researchers then examined the bone marrow, for the reason that maybe T-cells were not being produced enough but what they found was surprising. Not only were the T-cells present in the bone marrow, they were five times more than they should be. This was observed in all the patients and mice who had brain cancer.

The case is not specific to brain cancer, be it lung cancer or breast cancer or melanoma, the shrinkage of the spleens was only because T-cells were hiding in the bone marrow. The problem of the dysfunction was in T-cells; they were getting rid of the receptor called S1P1 which would normally get them out of the bone marrow. Researchers devised a way with a genetic alteration that caused these receptors to stick with T-cells in mice; T-cells managed to get out and the immune system activated quite well against the brain tumors.

The discovery is a big step forward, hopefully paving way for an FDA approved immunotherapy for brain cancer.