Immune defense blocks cancer growth

Immune defense blocks cancer growth

The body's immune system blocks cancer-tumor growth

In animal experiments with mice, researchers at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig have found that the body's immune defense actively prevents the spread of tumors by cutting off a connection to the blood vessels.

The human body has developed various mechanisms by which it can protect itself against newly emerging cancer cells. For example, the body's own killer cells recognize and destroy cells in our organs that change every day. Once tumors have developed, messenger substances from the immune system disrupt them when they grow. The immune defense is constantly on the move in the human body to fight bacteria or fours. According to the latest findings, the immune system also fights degenerate cells in the body that can develop into cancer. The immune system cuts off the supply of nutrients via the blood. It also prevents the cancer cells from spreading through the bloodstream. If a tumor could nevertheless develop, a messenger substance called beta interferon is released. The beta interferon molecule now prevents the tumor from connecting to the blood system.

"Beta-interferon blocks the connection of the tumor to the blood vessel system by preventing immune cells from forming growth factors. We absolutely did not expect this effect on tumors," says the researcher Jadwiga Jablonska from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI).

So far it was known that the messenger beta-interferon is released in viral diseases and inflammation. Artificially produced beta interferon has, however, been used in conventional cancer therapy for some time. However, the exact mode of action was unknown. Research is now to be continued. "We now want to understand how the network of tumors, immune cells and messengers works in order to discover new target structures for the treatment of cancer," says Siegfried Weiß, head of the "Molecular Immunology" working group at the HZI. (sb, April 6, 2010)

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