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How Tumors Can Escape Detection By The Immune System

A study at the école Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has created a very vivid image of how certain tumors manage to escape our immune system.  They disquise themselves as friendly cells.

Literally.  Tumors can create a tolerant microenvironment by mimicking lymph nodes so that naïve T cells won't recognize them.  Wolves in sheeps' clothing.

 

The tumor transforms its outer layer into lymphid-like tissue to avoid detection: Image: EPFLThe tumor transforms its outer layer into lymphid-like tissue to avoid detection: Image: EPFL

 

Apparently, there's a certain protein in healthy lymph nodes that programs T-cells to recognize unhealthy cells in their environment.  Some tumors have this protein and can secrete it to form an outer layer that looks like normal healthy lymph tissue.  The disguised tumors attract the T-cells and reprogram them to accept the tumors as friends, rather than foes, so the tumors can go on undetected.  Undetected and unrestricted in their growth.

"The finding that tumors can attract naïve and regulatory T cells and educate them has important implications for tumor immunotherapy," says Jacqui Shields, head of the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering.  According to Shields, "The concept that tumors mimic lymphoid tissue to alter the host's immune response represents a new understanding of tumors' interactions with the lymphatic system."

The study is published in Science and in Science Express, online March 25. via EurekAlert!