DNA sequences from tumor cells can be used to direct the immune system to attack cancer, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The research, in mice, appears online Feb. 8 in Nature.
The immune system relies on an intricate network of alarm bells, targets and safety brakes to determine when and what to attack. The new results suggest that scientists may now be able to combine DNA sequencing data with their knowledge of the triggers and targets that set off immune alarms to more precisely develop vaccines and other immunotherapies for cancer.
“We already have ways to identify specific targets for immunotherapy, but they are technically challenging, extremely labor-intensive and often take more than a year to complete,” says senior author Robert Schreiber, PhD, the Alumni Professor of Pathology and Immunology at the School of Medicine and co-leader of the tumor immunology program at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “These difficulties have stood in the way of developing personalized immunotherapies for cancer patients, who often require immediate care for their disease. To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show that the faster methods provided by DNA sequencing can help. That opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities.”
Excerpts are from an article featuring Robert Schreiber, Ph.D., appearing at Washington University Newsroom: DNA sequencing helps identify cancer cells for immune system attack.