Molecule identified that helps give resident T cells in the skin their anti-cancer punch

Source: Science Daily, April 2017

The molecule CD103 is key to the long-term residence of T cells in the skin and to their anti-tumor function, report a team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center In the April 14, 2017 Science Immunology. This finding supplements the ground-breaking discovery by the Dartmouth team, reported in the same article, that T cells residing in the skin are responsible for a potent anti-tumor response against melanoma.

The Dartmouth team, led by Mary Jo Turk, Ph.D., established the crucial role of resident memory T cells in the skin in eliciting a strong protective response against melanoma. The team began by questioning why patients with melanoma who develop the autoimmune disease called vitiligo have such a good prognosis. Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition against normal healthy melanocytes. Historically, the development of vitiligo in melanoma patients has been rare, but the recent use of immunotherapies, especially checkpoint inhibitors, has increased its incidence.

MUSC cancer immunologist Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D., and other investigators have previously shown that the most potent forms of adoptive T cell therapy for melanoma cause robust vitiligo in mice. In adoptive immunotherapy, T cells are harvested, amplified or otherwise modified, and reinfused to boost the anticancer immune response. Paulos is an endowed chair in the Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, an associate professor in the Department of Immunology and a member of the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

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