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How can tumours hijack the immune system?

  • Researcher: Dr Christos Tsatsanis
  • Institution: University of Crete
  • Award Amount: £131,385 for 3 years from June 2011
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
How can tumours hijack the immune system?
The cancer microenvironment consists of the space between the cancer cells in a tumour. Amongst other things, the microenvironment contains cells of the immune system which usually help the body attack the tumour to try to destroy it. However, there are some types of immune cells that can be "convinced"" by the tumour to work in its favour. For example, to help build new blood vessels to bring nutrients and oxygen to the tumour, in order to help it grow and spread. This is one of the main things that makes cancer so dangerous, its ability to grow and spread away from the original tumour and into surrounding tissues and organs. Dr Tsatanis is using his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to investigate how these immune system cells switch to work in favour of the tumour instead of against it and how we can switch them back to attack the tumour. In particular he is focusing on two molecules called AKT1 and AKT2 which he thinks may play a key role in this switch.
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