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Some Immune Cells May Promote Cancer Cell Growth

Update Date: Sep 05, 2013 05:06 PM EDT

Our immune systems protect us from things that can harm our body.  However, it can sometimes turn against us. Scientists recently discovered that some immune cells might actually promote the growth of cancer cells.

Scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that immune cells called myeloid derived suppressor cells, provide a place where the cancer stem cells survive.

Researchers said that killing cancer stem cells, which are resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, is vital for eliminating cancer. At the same time, myeloid derived suppressor cells aids cancer cell growth and suppresses the immune system.

"This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive. If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone," senior study author Weiping Zou, M.D., Ph.D., Charles B. de Nancrede Professor of surgery, immunology and biology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in news release.

Zou and his team believe that the immune cells give the cancer cells their "stemness," which allows the cells to be so lethal. Researchers believe that eliminating these immune cells can significantly slow the growth of cancer stem cells.

The findings are published in the journal Immunity

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