Research highlight

Cancer’s inflammation U-turn

Nature Communications

March 22, 2011

Inflammation, when driven by tumour-specific T helper cells, may prevent rather than promote cancer reports a paper in Nature Communications this week. This work could potentially serve as a basis for the future development of immunotherapy for cancer. It is well established that chronic inflammation predisposes to cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs have even been suggested to treat cancer, However, Alexandre Corthay and colleagues suggest that anti-inflammatory treatments may potentially suppress protective antitumour immunity. In order to test this theory and understand more about the nature of protective anti-tumour immune responses, their team quantified locally secreted cytokines during primary immune responses against certain types of cancer cells that were embedded in a gel matrix and injected into mice. Using this, they identified nine cytokines that are consistently associated with successful cancer cell eradication in their assay. This core includes both T-helper associated cytokines and pro-inflammatory cytokines – the latter of which have been highlighted as being essential for tumour progression. The authors caution, however, that other types of inflammation, or inflammation that lacks tumour specificity, may not protect and may even promote tumour development. Care should therefore be taken when considering anti-inflammatory treatments against cancer. Further studies will also be needed to discover whether this work can be accurately translated into humans.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1239

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