Are immune cells aiding cancer growth?

A new study has found that immune cells may actually be helping cancer thrive within the body.

What do you think of when you hear the words "immune system?" Generally, this term is associated with health. Our immune systems are made up of cells, tissues and organs that all work together to prevent unknown microbes from entering and growing within our bodies.1 Most of the time, those are different bacteria, parasites and even fungi that will often lead to infection if the immune system is unsuccessful in fighting it off.

Immune cells
One of the cells located within our bodies that are a working part within the immune system are myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Research has found that these cells will expand when an individual's body is invaded by cancer.2 In fact, MDSCs have even been discovered to suppress T-cell responses in cancer patients. However, a new study has found that the cells may actually be aiding cancer growth, rather than limiting it.

Cancer growth
Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that MDSCs have been providing cancer stem cells a place to survive within the body.3 Cancer stem cells are believed to play a vital role in the advancement of the disease. Since these cells are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatments that are currently used on cancer patients, the fact that MDSCs inhibit their growth only worsens the outlook.

"This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive," Dr. Weiping Zou, senior study author, said in a statement. "If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone."

Those who conducted the study are hopeful for finding the proper treatment to eliminate MDSCs in cancer patients. If successful, the researchers believe that current treatment options will be more successful in killing off cancer stem cells, which are thought to be the key for removing cancer.

Although there are different precautions individuals can take to boost their immune system, these efforts may be moot when immune cells are aiding a foreign microbe attacking the body. Medex Supply does provide health care professionals and individuals with equipment to prevent infection as well as numerous other medical supplies.

1 National Institutes of Health, "Immune system"
2 National Institutes of Health, "Myeloid-derived suppressor cells as regulators of the immune system" March 2009
3 University of Michigan Health System, "Some immune cells appear to aid cancer cell growth, U-M study finds" September 5, 2013.

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