New research, published in the journal Cell, suggests that neutrophils have a greater, previously unrecognised, role in the eradication of solid tumours than previously thought. The study carried out at Weill Cornell Medicine, examines T cell-based immunotherapy and how it attacks melanoma tumours. The research reveals that when T cells were activated by the immunotherapy to attack and destroy the tumours, they in turn activated neutrophils. These, in turn, eliminated the tumour cells, which the T cells were unable to fight. The study also discovered that neutrophils can play an essential role in removing tumour cells previously invisible to the immune system, that have the potential to keep tumours alive. The results could lead to a new method of harnessing this immune response to develop and direct new cancer therapeutics. Dr. Daniel Hirschhorn, an assistant professor of research in pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine, pointed out that this discovery highlights the importance of using various arms of the immune system working in coordination in the fight against cancer. “Conventional T cell-based therapies have been successful in treating cancers, but they are not as effective against heterogeneous tumours, which have antigen escape variants that can be invisible to the immune system,” he added.

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