07 October 2014
Your immune system has two ways to protect you. Cells in the innate system take on all invaders in a generic fashion, whereas specialised cells in the adaptive system learn to recognise and eliminate otherwise evasive pathogens. Both strategies involve dendritic cells, one of which is pictured here in an artist’s rendering. Dendritic cells share information to coach the adaptive system’s cells about which pathogens or pathogen-infected cells to hunt and how to destroy them. This involves exchanging information parcels called exosomes. But there’s a problem: cancer cells can hijack these communications to weaken the immune response. Using computer models, researchers have revealed that exosome exchanges between cancer and immune cells create three different cancer states. The intermediate state, with a moderate cancer load and an immune system on high alert, could potentially provide a window for combination treatments involving alternate cycles of immune-boosting therapies and cancer-killing chemotherapy.
Written by Daniel Cossins