German Scientific Discovery Could Enhance Cancer Immunotherapy

June 2022

Researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Berlin have identified a gene, EBAG9, that “disarms” the immune response to cancer cells. By switching off the gene, scientists believe they can better harness the body’s T cells for targeted immunotherapies.

“We shut down the EBAG9 gene,” said researcher Anthea Wirges, one of the lead authors of a paper published in the journal JCI Insight, on the MDC website. “This meant we could stop EBAG9 being produced in the T cells and strengthen the immune response to cancer for the long term.”

Such uninhibited T-cells are capable of identifying and destroying cancer cells much earlier and more effectively. They also provide long-term protection because the T-cells develop “memory” of the cancer. The implications for the fight against cancer could be profound.

“The stronger the initial T cell reaction, the better the subsequent T cell memory,” said research team co-leader Armin Rehm. “We aren’t just hoping that this therapy will result in more efficient treatments for leukemia and lymphoma. We’re hoping that it will cure them.”

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