New study identifies key components of the immune system to succeed in cancer immunotherapy

CONICET researchers and their Uruguayan and French colleagues participated in the study.


Illustration: Alejandro Rodríguez Juele and Nicolás Peruzzo.

The international research team who conducted the study comprises scientists from the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (IBYME, CONICET), the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, the Faculty of Medicine of The University of the Republic of Uruguay(UdelaR) and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) from France. They managed to identify new interaction between the components of the immunological system whose expression is vital to boost the success of immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that has become important in the last years as it can capitalize the intrinsic potential of the immune system to fight tumors. Nevertheless, not all patients respond successfully to the treatment and the reasons for these discrepancies are still unknown.

The study, which was published in the prestigious journal Cancer Cell, also improved the identification of a chemical compound that activates all the components of the immunological system that participate in the action against cancer and improves the effects of immunotherapy in experimental models of cancer resistant to these therapies.

“This compound is still under study to analyze its toxicity and potential evaluation in humans”, Mercedes Segovia affirms. She and Sofía Russo led the research work at the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo and Faculty of Medicine of the UdelaR.

“Identifying the TMEM176b molecule as a new therapeutic target in patients who do not respond to immunotherapy and a new drug that blocks it is vital to provide more treatment opportunities for these patients,” says Gabriel Rabinovich, CONICET senior researcher and vice director at the IBYME –where he also leads the Immunopathology Laboratory-, as well as full professor at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the UBA.

Furthermore, “the detection of one molecular signature of genes in biopsies of patients who do not respond to these therapies is critical,” says Romina Girotti, CONICET assistant researcher and head of the Laboratory of Immune-oncology of IBYME.

The study has had positive results in experimental cancer models. Besides, the analysis of tumor samples confirm the relevance of the results as it can predict which patients are going to respond to immunotherapy, which are not, and rationalize the use of this type of treatment that requires very expensive drugs in Latin America.

The research was the result of collaborative work between the group of Marcelo Hill -researcher of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation and Inflamation of the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo and professor of the Faculty of Medicine of the UdelaR-, Gabriel Rabinovich, Maria Romina Girotti and Cristina Cuturi of INSERM. In the Argentine group also participated Yamil Mahmoud and Florencia Veigas, both doctoral fellows of CONICET in the IBYME.

“This collaboration is a sign of the importance of regional and international networks that allow us to increase the quality of science made from developing countries,” Hill says. “This work has enriched us a lot on a scientific and human level, it has empowered us and generated close ties between research groups in united countries”, concludes Rabinovich.

 

 

Source: Secretary of the Government of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.