Cells share data to fight cancer

Washington: In a possible breakthrough in the fight against cancer, scientists claim to have discovered evidence that the body`s immune cells often share information about foreign substances with each other to keep off invaders.

An international team, led by the Australian National University, has in fact found that immune cells responding to foreign substances, or pathogens, are able to rapidly transfer their ability to recognise the invader to other immune cells.

And, harnessing this process may lead to new ways to treat cancerous tumours as well as strengthen the immunity in patients with weaker immune systems, say the scientists.

"Our discovery revolutionises our understanding of how the immune system works. It indicates that there is much more communication and sharing of information between cells of the immune system than was previously thought.

"These findings can potentially be harnessed to expand immunity against pathogens and cancer. In the case of cancer the number of immune cells in a patient that can recognise and eliminate the cancer could be dramatically expanded.

"Another obvious application of our discovery is in patients with decreased immunity. Again this form of cell to cell communication could be used to expand the number of immune cells in these individuals that can combat opportunistic infections," team leader Prof Chris Parish said.

Prof Parish added that he started research on this phenomenon in the immune system over 10 years ago.

"It took many years for us to obtain sufficient data to convince ourselves that the phenomenon was genuine. Now there is no doubt that the sharing of information and abilities between cells of the immune system is genuine.