Results of a recent study pave the way for a new therapy for lung cancer

Results of a recent study pave the way for a new therapy for lung cancer

March 13, 2024: New perspectives for lung cancer immunotherapy emerge from data just published, in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, by the research group led by Dr. Federica Benvenuti at the ICGEB in Trieste, Italy. The study was supported by AIRC Foundation for Cancer Research.

So-called immune checkpoint inhibitors are a form of immunotherapy now routinely used in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Such compounds work by reactivating cytotoxic T lymphocytes, the immune cells that may thus be able to eliminate cancer cells. The use of these drugs improves the survival of patients who respond to therapy, but their numbers remain low, and new complementary therapeutic strategies also need to be developed. “Type 1 dendritic cells (cDC1),” Benvenuti explains, “play a key role in the recognition of the so-called tumour neoantigens, specific proteins predominantly expressed by diseased cells and also for this reason recognisable as abnormal and dangerous by the immune system. In advanced tumours, the number of dendritic cells is greatly diminished, and therefore their surveillance function is impaired. With our experimental study, we showed that by restoring the number of cDC1 in diseased lung tissues by specific therapy, it is possible to allow the immune system to recognise again the otherwise “invisible” neoantigens and thus reactivate the defences against the tumour.

The types of immunotherapies currently in clinical use need to be revisited to improve their efficacy and increase the number of patients who can benefit from them. Using dendritic cells, primarily responsible for recognising and launching the specific immune response, as a therapeutic target, – the authors of the article propose, – is a rather radical, yet necessary change in the development of the next generation of immunotherapies. If the results are confirmed in large clinical trials with patients, they may open up concrete prospects for treatment.

The study is the result of collaborative research in the ICGEB laboratory in Trieste and was supported by the AIRC Foundation for Cancer Research. First author Dr. Lucía López comments, “This study has allowed us to design and evaluate new therapies for lung cancer and to collaborate with leading scientists in European institutions, including Austria, Belgium and France, as well as in Italy.”

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