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Enzyme ‘Holds Key to Cancer’

Mar 18, 2016     Email"> PrintText Size

LOCAL scientists are developing a new way to treat cancer that uses an enzyme to unleash the tumor-fighting power of the patient’s own T cells.

Scientists from the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, a branch of Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under Chinese Academy of Sciences, published their research in the journal Nature yesterday.

The scientists said T cells play a central role in immunity by monitoring and fighting tumors. However, tumors can resist T-cell attack using various mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment.

"Our research is about enhancing the function of T cells to improve the body’s ability to fight against tumor cells,” said researcher Xu Chenqi. "Since cholesterol is important for T-cell signaling and function, we started with research on cellular cholesterol metabolism and found that the inhibiting enzyme ACAT1 can raise the cholesterol level and therefore greatly promote the signaling and killing process of CD8+ T cells, also known as killer T cells.”

The treatment is even more effective when an ACAT1 inhibitor is combined with a cancer drug.

"This study opens a new field of cancer immune therapy by identifying ACAT1 as a promising drug target,” Xu added.

Dr Wang Hongyang, an oncologist at Shanghai East Liver and Gallbladder Surgery Hospital, said the discovery is a significant breakthrough for cancer immunotherapy.

"Basic research on cancer mechanisms is extremely important for prevention and control,” she said. “The discovery of the new target has great significance for pharmaceutical development.” (Source: Shanghai Daily)

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(Editor: YUAN Linlin)

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