Investigators create cancer-fighting T cell receptors

After 10 years of lab work a team of German scientists say they have developed a transgenic mouse model with modified T cell receptors that can help the immune system hunt down and destroy cancer cells.

T cells are adapted in the human body to ignore natural proteins and hunt down viruses, bacteria and other invaders, an essential biological function that prevents autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. But the same process can make cancer cells invisible. By modifying the T cell receptors the investigators--Dr. Liang-Ping Li and Professor Thomas Blankenstein of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch and Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin--say that they can open the door to introducing the new and improved T cells to help attack cancers.

"These human T cell receptors in the mouse recognize human antigens of human cancer cells. For the mice human tumor antigens are foreign," Professor Blankenstein explained. "Such highly effective T cell receptors do not exist in humans. They are destroyed in humans in order to prevent them from attacking the body's own structures. Only T cells remain with less effective T cell receptors."

- check out the release