When immune system T cells find and recognise a target, they release chemicals to attract more T cells which then swarm to help subdue the threat, shows a new study published today in eLife.
The discovery of this swarming behaviour, and the chemical attractants that immune cells use to direct swarms towards tumours, could one day help scientists develop new cancer therapies that boost the immune system. This is particularly important for solid tumours, which so far have been less responsive to current immunotherapies than cancers affecting blood cells.
“Scientists have previously thought that cancer-killing T cells identified tumours by randomly searching for them or by following the chemical trails laid by other intermediary immune cells,” says lead author Jorge Luis Galeano Niño, a PhD graduate at UNSW Sydney. “We wanted to investigate this further to see if it’s true, or whether T cells locate tumours via another mechanism.”