The Biology of Sugars Points to a Sweet Strategy for Treating Cancer

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According to (This article and its images were originally posted on Scientific American Content November 28, 2018 at 06:46AM.)

Over the last few decades, researchers tinkering with molecules that turn an immune cell on and off have created a revolutionary approach to fighting cancer. Instead of taking aim at the tumor directly, this new class of medicines harnesses the patient’s own immune cells to tackle the disease. Immune-based cancer therapies are saving thousands of lives, and the science behind them earned this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

These drugs, called checkpoint blockers, appeared after scientists discovered molecules that help cancer cells block immune processes that would otherwise attack a tumor. The secret lies with several “brake” proteins on white blood cells, T cells, that prevent the immune system from overreacting to microbial threats. Tumor cells have learned to survive by engaging the brake molecules, sending T cells into a stupor that allows cancer to gain a foothold. By thwarting this hijacking maneuver, checkpoint blockers release the brakes and awaken T cells to attack the tumor. A clever trick—except that so far, these immune-based drugs only work in about a fifth of cancer patients and for certain tumors, barely at all.

 

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This article and images were originally posted on [Scientific American Content] November 28, 2018 at 06:46AM. Credit to the original author and Scientific American Content | ESIST.T>G>S Recommended Articles Of The Day.

 

 

 

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