Therapy flags DNA typos to rev cancer-fighting T cells | Science News

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Therapy flags DNA typos to rev cancer-fighting T cells

Disabled spell-checker identifies patients who may benefit from immune therapy

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3:12pm, June 9, 2017
Keytruda

UNLEASHED  An antibody sold as the drug Keytruda helps turn on cancer-fighting T cells. Tumors (red) can use PD-1 proteins (yellow, orange) to lock onto T cells (white) and shut them down. The antibody blocks PD-1 proteins, freeing T cells to attack the cancer.

Mutations that prevent cells from spell-checking their DNA may make cancer cells vulnerable to immunotherapies, a new study suggests.

A type of immune therapy known as PD-1 blockade controlled cancer in 77 percent of patients with defects in DNA mismatch repair — the system cells use to spell-check and fix errors in DNA (SN Online: 10/7/15). The therapy was effective against 12 different types of solid tumors, including colorectal, gastroesophageal and pancreatic cancers, and even tumors of unknown origin, researchers report June 8 in Science.

“Where the tumor started doesn’t matter. What matters is why the tumor started,” says study coauthor Richard Goldberg, an oncologist at West Virginia University Cancer Institute in Morgantown.

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