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City of Hope Research Reveals an Immune Cell That Can Attack Cancer

According to preclinical research published online today in Cell, one of the world’s premier scientific journals, researchers with City of Hope®, one of the largest cancer treatment and research organizations in the United States, have discovered that a type of immune cell in the human body known to be important for allergy and other immune responses can also attack cancer.

Furthermore, these cells, called human type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), can be expanded outside of the body and applied in larger numbers to overpower a tumor’s defenses and eliminate malignant cells in mouse models with cancer.

"The City of Hope team has identified human ILC2 cells as a new member of the cell family capable of directly killing all types of cancers, including blood cancers and solid tumors," said Jianhua Yu, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope and the study’s senior author. "In the future, these cells could be manufactured, preserved by freezing, and then administered to patients. Unlike T cell-based therapies, such as CAR T cells, which necessitate using the patient’s own cells due to their specific characteristics, ILC2s might be sourced from healthy donors, presenting a distinct potential therapeutic approach as an allogeneic and ‘off-the-shelf’ product."

In previous research focused on mouse cells, ILC2s had not consistently shown promise when tested for their cancer-killing abilities.

However in the highly translational labs at City of Hope, researchers prioritized the examination of human cells and found that human ILC2s do not work the same as mouse ILC2s.

"Typically, mice are reliable models for predicting human immunity, so it was a real surprise in the field to find that human ILC2s function as direct cancer killers while their mouse counterparts do not," said Michael Caligiuri, M.D., who is a co-senior author of the study and also a City of Hope professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. "It is remarkable that something has evolved so distinctly in going from mouse to human."

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