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Macrophages and Dendritic cells in cancer

  • Researcher: Professor John Trowsdale
  • Institution: University of Cambridge
  • Award Amount: £175,694 for 3 years from January 2013
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Macrophages and Dendritic cells in cancer
The cells in our immune system are trained to recognise foreign molecules such as those found on bacteria, viruses, and even some cancer cells. Immune system cells can attack and kill such foreign bodies once they have been detected. Dendritic cells and macrophages are two cell types that work by taking up foreign bodies and presenting pieces of them to other immune cells, so that these cells can recognise what to kill. Immune cells should also be able to recognise molecules on cancer cells, but cancer cells have a wide range of ways that they prevent the immune system from recognising or attacking them. Some cancer research is therefore looking at ways to stop the tumours from preventing the immune system from recognising tumour cells as foreign bodies.

Epithelial cells are a layer of cells that cover the surfaces of most of the different organs and tissues inside the body. Most types of cancer are formed from epithelial cells. Professor Trowsdale and his team have found a molecule, which is found on the surface of epithelial tumour cells. This molecule reacts with a protein called LILRB3, which is found on macrophages and dendritic cells, and it stops these immune cells from recognising tumour cells. They are planning on using their Worldwide Cancer Research grant to find a way to learn more about how these molecules interact. They will also try to find a way to stop the tumour molecule from attaching to LILRB3. If this is successful, the tumour cells are no longer protected from macrophages and dendritic cells, and the immune system may help to destroy the tumour.
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