Studies Reveal That This Receptor May Reduce the Need for Chemo and Radiation

For years, chemotherapy, although not compulsory, has been necessary to fight cancer and have a chance at survival. The process involves using chemicals that could kill rapid-growing cancer cells. It can be used as the main method of treatment or with other medications or procedures. Chemotherapy is also used as adjuvant therapy in which the remaining cancer cells are killed after surgery. The method can also decrease the tumor size before another procedure, allowing the patient to undergo surgery and radiation. Another type of this treatment is palliative chemotherapy, which fights early signs and symptoms of growing cancer cells.

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However effective, the cancer treatment has side effects that a patient experiences during the process. This is due to the fact that chemotherapy kills cancer cells with powerful drugs, which also affect the healthy normal cells. There is no distinguishing factor as to what side effect you will be experiencing. The good news is that you can take medications that may help protect normal cells from chemotherapy. Also, treatments for some side effects are available for patients. The most commonly known side effects of chemotherapy are nausea, extreme fatigue, and hair loss.

With the help of advanced science and technology, a new cancer treatment method might be available in the future. Scientists from renowned universities are working on a project to reduce the necessity for chemo. UCLA scientists and colleagues from Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania are assessing a synthetic IL-9 receptor. According to the team, the synthetic IL-9 receptor allows cancer-fighting T cells to diminish the disease without chemo and radiation. The T cells were designed in the laboratory of Christopher Garcia, Ph.D. from Stanford. They used engineered T cells with synthetic IL-9 receptors against tumors in mice — the method was found to be potent.

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“When T cells are signaling through the synthetic IL-9 receptor, they gain new functions that help them not only outcompete the existing immune system but also kill cancer cells more efficiently,” says Anusha Kalbasi, a researcher at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. He became part of the team while under the mentorship of one of the project’s lead researchers, Antoni Ribas, MD, Ph.D. Christopher Garcia and Antoni Ribas both worked on a published paper in 2018. Their study involved a synthetic version of interleukin-2 (IL-2), which could be used to stimulate designed T cells with a matching synthetic receptor for the synthetic IL-2.

According to Kalbasi, the treatment was effective when tested on multiple systems. The team incorporated the therapy with two of the most difficult to treat cancer diseases — pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Model mice were the subjects for the trial where the team used T cells focused on cancer cells through the natural T receptor or chimeric antigen receptor. Scientists are still working on this project, and will hopefully be incorporating the therapy as part of future medications. The study is published in the online journal Nature.

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