Australian researchers at Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have presented their findings regarding the role of a particular immune cell, tissue-resident memory T (TRM) cell. Animal testing showed TRM was able to control skin tumors in mice for their entire life, which is likely to equate to decades of protection in humans.
The team created an imaging model specifically for these tests. “Using a special microscope, we could see individual melanoma cells sitting in the skin of the mouse, and could watch the T cells move through the skin, find the melanoma cells and control the growth of those cells”, explained Ph.D.student, Simone Park.
One of the major issues with cancer patients is the constant risk or recurrence, even years later after surgery or chemotherapy. Previous information noted that, in some cases, small numbers of cancer cells persisted in the body after treatment and that the immune system probably had a way of keeping them under control.
“I was able to see through moving images that these TRM cells are important for maintaining the control of the tumour cells; if you remove the TRM cells you have a break in that control and the cancer can start to grow back again”, added Ms. Park.
In terms of applications, several options have opened up, including creating more TRM cells through immunotherapies or finding ways of enhancing their activity and thus boost anti-tumor immunity.
“The principal of cutting-edge immunotherapies currently in clinical practise is that they generate a T-cell response. But if we can hone in on one type of T-cell – the TRM cells specifically, we could have an even bigger impact on stopping cancers from coming back”, noted Associate Professor Thomas Gebhardt, senior author on the paper.
It seems that even more potential is discovered in biological therapies as time goes on. Hopefully, more and more can be harnessed, leading to improved medical care and superior outcomes.