Discovery of protein’s role could improve cancer immunotherapies

Vaccine research

Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland have discovered that the protein TIMP-1 plays a critical role in the immune system’s defence against cancer.

TIMP-1 is produced by dendritic cells, which are responsible for initiating immune responses and boosting the immune system’s ability to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

The protein enhances antitumour immunity through self-stimulation and by activating surrounding immune cells.

As a result, increasing TIMP-1 expression or targeting its negative regulators in tumours with deficient immune responses could potentially improve the effectiveness of current cancer immunotherapies.

“For patients deficient in TIMP-1 expression, our discovery helps create rational therapeutic innovations,” said Carlos Rogerio Figueiredo, Docent and InFLAMES researcher at the University of Turku.

According to Figueiredo, the new findings are also relevant for fighting infections by viruses and bacteria, as the process is part of a universal mechanism that fights microorganisms and cancer in a similar fashion.

“The published research shows how the reverse translational method works in practice. Traditional translational research typically starts with basic laboratory discoveries, which are later tested on patients in clinical trials. The reverse translational approach, on the other hand, starts with real-world data from patient samples to guide focused laboratory studies, thereby enhancing the likelihood of success when applied to patients,” explained Figueiredo.

Figueiredo heads the Medical Immuno-Oncology Research Group (MIORG) at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Turku.

InFLAMES Flagship is a joint initiative of University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, Finland. The goal of the Flagship is to integrate the immunological and immunology-related research activities to develop and exploit new diagnostic and therapeutic tools for personalised medicine.

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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