A one-size-fits-all cure for cancer?

Carter Levy on research from Cardiff University that details a potential new mechanism of cure for the deadly disease

Carter Levy
26th January 2020
Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a T cell that can respond to many types of cancer. The T cell discovered has been shown to kill all cancers tested including “lung, melanoma, leukemia, colon, breast, prostate, bone and ovarian” cancers in the lab and leukemia in living mice.

Cytotoxic T cells are a natural part of the immune system and are part of the natural response for fighting cancers and viruses. They do this by releasing chemicals that can kill cells. Some cytotoxic T cells may target a singular cancer, but can target as many different cancers as the immune cell line in question. The researchers were also able to show that the immune cells were “incapable of activating” against healthy cells “even when stressed or damaged.” Meaning that whilst the immune cells may kill cancer cells, regular cells are unaffected. The way that the immune cells do this is not fully understood.

What we do know is that it requires MR1, a protein, and its unknown cargo to recognise and kill the cancer cell. It is the combination of the protein and cargo, which gives the cell its specificity to the different cancers. MR1 seems to be in the same form (monomorphic) in most people, which means that the immune cells receptors could recognise cancers in almost all people.  

The scientists involved suggest that identifying the unknown cargo “may further open up opportunities for therapeutic vaccination for many cancers in all individuals.” Mice that received the immune cells showed a greatly reduced number of Leukemia cells present compared to control groups. Giving hope to the future of cancer treatments in humans.

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