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Understanding how CD4+ T cells react to tumours

  • Researcher: Dr Sergio Quezada
  • Institution: University College London
  • Award Amount: £225,479 for 3 years from April 2013
  • Cancer Type: Skin Cancer
Understanding how CD4+ T cells react to tumours
Cells in our immune system are trained to recognise bacteria and viruses to attack and kill them. In some instances, our immune system will recognise tumour cells. The cells that normally attack and kill foreign bodies or cancer cells are called T cells. There are several different types of T cells, and until now, cancer research has mostly been studying CD8+ T cells, known for their ability to recognise and kill tumours. In recent years, another type of cell, the CD4+ T cell, has been shown to play a part in the immune response to cancer. The CD4+ T cells were sometimes found to help and enhance the immune response to the tumour, but in some cases the cells were shown to suppress the immune response.

Dr Quezada and his team recently showed, in a mouse model of melanoma (a type of skin cancer), that in addition to their normal helper and suppressive roles in the immune response, CD4+ T cells are also able to produce a very strong killer response, which leads to impressive rejection of large, fully established tumours. Killer CD4+ T cells have been found in patients with different diseases that are related to inflammation, or swelling, but we know nearly nothing about the possible role of these cells in helping or stopping tumour development.

With their Worldwide Cancer Research grant they aim to study what systems control these cells, and the signals that are involved in making them form an immune response against tumours. They also want to study the presence of these cells in human tumours to better understand the systems that control their behaviour within tumours, and if there are systems that prevent these CD4+ T cells from attacking tumour cells. This project should give us a much better understanding of the role of these T cells in human tumours and whether there may be ways to control an immune response against some tumours.
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