Researchers Thwart Cancer Cells by Triggering 'Virus Alert'

Working with human cancer cell lines and mice, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and elsewhere have found a way to trigger a type of immune system "virus alert" that may one day boost cancer patients' response to immunotherapy drugs. An increasingly promising focus of cancer research, the drugs are designed to disarm cancer cells' ability to avoid detection and destruction by the immune system.

In a report on the work published in the Aug. 27 issue of Cell, the Johns Hopkins-led research team said it has found a core group of genes related to both a viral defense warning system and susceptibility to a demethylating drug called 5-azacytidine that chemically alters their ability to operate through a process called demethylation.

A study with similar findings authored by Daniel De Carvalho, Ph.D., at the Ontario Cancer Institute/Princess Margaret Hospital, and Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., director of research at the Van Andel Institute, focused on the ability of DNA demethylating agents to target colorectal cancer stem cells, is published in the same journal issue.

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