In celebration of the meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group’s recent meeting in Boston, at iMig 2012, we at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley funded this year’s Young Investigator Awards, as we have done at each meeting since 2008. This is the third in a series of entries discussing the promising work of one of the recipients.
Researchers from the University of Toronto are figuring out how to use the body’s own immune system to boost the efficacy of chemotherapy in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. Dr. Licun Wu, one of the scientists heading this work, was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss this exciting approach to medicine.
Activating the body’s defenses
Several medical experts are exploring ways to use the body’s immune system to kill malignant cells, according to the American Cancer Society. These approaches, collectively known as immunotherapy, may act directly on the cancer or support the actions of healthy cells.
In their laboratory, Wu and his team are focusing specifically on the behavior of the immune system between cycles of chemotherapy.
“Cancer cells tend to repopulate during the breaks between chemotherapy treatments. Evidence has shown that the rate of repopulation of surviving cancer cells accelerates over time, so better approaches to stop this process need to be developed,” said Wu.
The research team’s experiments revealed that blocking the actions of CTLA-4, a protein that acts as a brake on certain immune responses, helps prevent mesothelioma cells from repopulating during breaks in chemotherapy. Reining in this protein may allow a type of immune cell known as natural killer T cells to flourish and fight the disease.
This study potentially lays the groundwork for clinical trials that use CTLA-4 blocking medications. We at Kazan Law are happy to support this research, as we know that diversifying the types of treatments available to mesothelioma patients will do them a world of good by giving them more than one way to fight this disease.