Chinese scientists have discovered a protein called FBXO38 that affects the body's antitumor immunity, providing possible new insight into cancer immunotherapy.
In vitro studies by a group of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology have shown that a fairly low amount of FBXO38 leads to the accumulation of more PD-1 than the body requires. PD-1 is a molecule that helps keep the body's immune responses in check.
Scientists found out many years ago that tumor cells often multiply and develop by finding ways to over-activate PD-1, which in turn impairs the body's ability to destroy tumor cells.
The Chinese research paper, which took seven years to complete, was published on the website of British scientific journal Nature last Thursday.
The scientists also found that an FDA-approved drug called IL-2, which is used to treat skin and kidney cancers, can boost the levels of FBXO38 in the tumor microenvironment to improve the effectiveness of killing cancer cells.
However, this drug has not been widely used for its obvious side effects, including vascular leakage and inflammation, the researchers said.
"One possible approach in clinical application might be optimizing the form of the drug and its dosage in the future and exploring its combined use with other therapies," said Xu Chenqi, the lead researcher.