Cancers have many strategies for avoiding attacks from the immune system. But the more scientists are able to understand about them, the more effectively they will be able to use the immune system to fight cancer. To that end, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a new strategy.
Erika Pearce, PhD, associate professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received a four-year, $1.26 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, separately, a $500,000 grant for metabolism research.
Cancer cells’ appetite for sugar may have serious consequences for immune cell function. Scientists have shown that in low-sugar environments immune T cells start using energy-making structures known as mitochondria (highlighted in this image in yellow and orange). This switch can prevent T cells from making an inflammatory compound important for fighting cancers and some infections.