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Pushing Past Pancreatic Tumors’ Defenses

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Our immune systems have the potential to find and destroy cancer cells. But cancer cells can be clever and develop tricks to evade the immune system. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor Douglas Fearon and his former postdoc ZhiKai Wang found one such trick. Cancer cells weave a deactivating signal into a protective coat of armor that excludes T cells that would otherwise kill them. This immune deactivation pathway offers a promising new therapeutic approach for pancreatic, breast, and colorectal cancers.

T cells patrol the body looking for cancers and pathogens. If they and/or their immune system teammates find an intruder, the T cells are mobilized to attack. Wang, currently a research fellow at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, discovered this mobilization was disabled by a combination of three proteins woven into a protective coating surrounding cancer cells: a signal that usually attracts T cells called CXCL12, a filament called KRT19, and a protein that fuses the former proteins together called TGM2. Read more . . . 

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