Scientists discover new type of immune cell to guide immunotherapy for lung cancer


A new Cancer Research UK funded study has revealed that the discovery of a new type of immune T-cell could guide immunotherapy for lung cancer patients.

The study has been conducted by scientists from England’s University of Southampton and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, California, US.

The researchers have discovered that lung cancer patients with large amounts of a particular type of immune T-cell, known as tissue-resident memory T-cells, found in their tumour have a 34% less chance of dying.

The study findings have revealed that the increase in survival rate among the lung cancer patients is not only because of the numbers of T-cells but also due to the cell behaviour.

The clustered cells reside in a particular tissue, in this case the cancer tissue, to protect the patient.

In addition, the new T-cells produce other molecules that attack the tumour, thereby preparing the body’s immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells.

Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Southampton professor Christian Ottensmeier said: “These are hugely exciting results. For the first time we have a real indication of who might benefit from a particular drug before we make treatment decisions.

"So far when we use immunotherapy we do not know if a patient will benefit. The new findings are a big step towards making this exciting treatment much more predictable."

“So far when we use immunotherapy we do not know if a patient will benefit. The new findings are a big step towards making this exciting treatment much more predictable.

“Our results will also make the treatment pathway more reassuring for our patients. And if we can translate our finding into clinical practice, then we will also save patients unnecessary side effects and reduce costs to the National Health Service (NHS).”

Testing for levels of the cells can help doctors identify which patient will benefit most from immunotherapies in the future.

Researchers can also use the T-cell as a template to develop a vaccine to boost immunotherapy to help treat cancers.


Image: Cells clustered together in lung cancer. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.