Immune cell research presented at SMR
30 October 2018
PhD student Hansol Lee presented his research on the role immune cells play in Stage IV melanoma patients receiving anti-PD-1 immunotherapy at the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) Congress in Manchester last week.
Natural Killer (NK) immune cells identify and destroy abnormal cells, such as those infected by viruses, or cancer cells. Importantly, they are able to identify abnormal cells that lack the red flags that would usually make the immune system aware of their presence. This is especially important in people with cancer, as cancer cells have evolved mechanisms to reduce those red flags in order for them to grow undetected in the body.
By analysing tissue from 45 MIA patients, Mr. Lee found that those patients who responded to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy had higher populations of NK cells within their tumour, which further increased early during treatment. In responding patients, these cells were also found much closer to the melanoma cells than in non-responding patients. The research showed that using anti-PD-1 immunotherapy also increased the function of the NK cells, resulting in them destroying more melanoma cells. This greater understanding of the link between NK immune cells and immunotherapy response will assist researchers in further modifying treatments to provide better outcomes for patients.
The paper summarising this research was also accepted in the academic journal Oncoimmunology.