The end of skin cancer?

T cells in green

They fight viruses and bacteria in our skin, brain, lungs and even gut.  Now Australian scientists have also found that these special immune cells have the power to put melanoma tumors ‘to sleep.’

The tissue-resident memory T-cells have been used to fight cancer in the past but researchers didn’t know how they worked… until now.  Experts say the T-cells basically ‘hold the cancer in check.’ 

They induce a state of dormancy of the tumor, so this stops the cancer cells without killing them.  These particular cells are therefore very good at controlling melanoma long term.

The research was conducted in Australia at the University of Melbourne.  It’s here where scientists used a novel system where they were able to monitor melanoma cells and T cells under the microscope using fluorescent markers.

Melanoma is the least common but the most deadly skin cancer, accounting for only about one percent of all cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer death.  In 2018, it’s estimated that there were around 92,000 new cases of melanoma in the United States and 9,300 deaths from the disease.  Out of the 92,000 cases, more than 50,000 cases will occur in males.

Researchers are hoping this T-cell research could be the future design of immunotherapy… possibly saving thousands of lives every year.

(***sources:  Aim at Melanoma Foundation, The Sydney Morning Herald***)

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