Important advance in the treatment of cancer and viral infections

January 18, 2009

Dr. André Veillette, a researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), and his team led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Mario-Ernesto Cruz-Munoz, will publish in the upcoming issue of the prestigious journal Nature Immunology of Nature Publishing Group. This discovery could have a significant impact on the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases. Current treatments frequently achieve only limited results with these types of diseases, which affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Dr. Veillette's team identified one of the basic mechanisms controlling NK ("natural killer") cell activity. Produced by the immune system, NK cells are responsible for recognizing and killing cancer cells and cells infected by viruses, such as viruses causing hepatitis and herpes. NK cell deficiency is associated with a higher incidence of cancers and serious infections.

"Our breakthrough, comments Dr. Veillette, demonstrates that a molecule known as CRACC, which is present at the surface of NK cells, increases their killer function." Using mice, the researchers have shown that CRACC greatly improves the animals' ability to eliminate cancer cells such as melanoma (a skin cancer) and lymphoma (a blood cancer). Mice lacking the CRACC gene, generated in Dr. Veillette's laboratory, were found to be more susceptible to cancer persistence. Conversely, stimulation of CRACC function was found to improve cancer cell elimination. Thus, stimulating CRACC could boost NK cell activity, helping to fight cancers. In addition, it could improve the ability to fight infections, which are also handled by NK cells.

Increasing the activity of CRACC by gene therapy or drugs could become an option in the future to stimulate the killer function of NK cells, and to improve their capacity to destroy cancer and virus-infected cells. These approaches could be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy to increase the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments. Teams of scientists around the world have been trying for many years without success to develop methods to increase NK cell activity. In this light, the discovery of Dr. Veillette's team opens new avenues for the treatment of cancers and viral infections.

This publication constitutes another significant milestone for Dr. Veillette, an internationally renowned immunologist. The article, which is slated for online publication on January 18 in Nature Immunology, gives undeniable evidence for the stimulatory effect of CRACC in NK cells. It is the product of over four years of intensive research by Dr. Veillette's team.

References for this article are available at: dx.doi.org/10.138/ni.1693 or www.nature.com/ni/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html

Source: Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal

Explore further: The light of fireflies for medical diagnostics

Related Stories

The light of fireflies for medical diagnostics

July 22, 2015

In biology and medicine, we often need to detect biological molecules. For example, in cancer diagnostics, doctors need quick and reliable ways of knowing if tumor cells are present in the patient's body. Although such detection ...

A dictionary of the language of cells

July 22, 2015

In their struggle to survive and prosper, multicellular organisms rely on a complex network of communication between cells, which in humans are believed to number about 40 trillion. Now, in a study published in Nature Communications, ...

Imaging glucose uptake activity inside single cells

July 17, 2015

Researchers at Columbia University have reported a new approach to visualize glucose uptake activity in single living cells by light microscopy with minimum disturbance. In a recent study published in Angewandte Chemie International ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
1 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2009
The theory of "Hyperthermia" as a,(or THE), CAUSE OF CANCER needs to be explored! "Angiogenesis", for instance, MAY be the body's effort to COOL the cell! It a cinch that "Hypotherapudics" stands a chance at returning the malfunctioning cell to normal;!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.