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Biological Chemistry

Successful Chemotherapy Relies On Immune System Cleanup

Oncology: Removing dead cancer cells requires a functioning peptide receptor on immune cells

by Sarah Everts
November 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 43

A patient’s own immune system may be a weak link in the success of some chemotherapies, reports a team led by Laurence Zitvogel and Guido Kroemer of the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus. These researchers took a closer look at how the immune system clears dead cancer cells after treatment with anthracyclines, a family of chemotherapy drugs (example shown) widely used to treat breast, lung, blood, and bladder cancers. The team found that, for anthracycline treatment to work optimally, a patient’s dendritic immune cells need to have a functional formyl peptide receptor called FPR1. This receptor helps the cells form stable contacts with cancer cells killed using chemotherapy. Once the dendritic cells connect with the malignant cell corpses, other immune cells can be recruited to clear the tumor (Science 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0779). The team notes that a dysfunctional or absent FPR1 protein is common in many cancer patients. They argue that researchers need to find ways to restore or bypass defective FPR1 signaling so that anthracycline chemotherapy can be successful.


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