Immune cells reduce the growth of brain tumour cells


In later years it has become increasingly evident that immune cells are very important for the growth and metastasis of tumours. Elena Chugunova and her co-workers at IGP have studied immune cells called mast cells and discovered that substances from these cells can reduce the growth of brain tumour cells. The researchers also investigated the mechanism behind this growth regulation, findings that could be used to develop a new therapy for brain tumour patients.

The brain tumour type glioma is very difficult to treat. This is partly due to the invasive growth of the tumour, which makes it difficult to remove surgically. In addition, the tumour also contains cells called cancer stem cells, relatively undifferentiated cells that can evade chemotherapy and then start to divide again and form a new tumour.

In a glioma tumour there are also several types of immune cells that can affect the tumour development but it is still unclear whether they modulate cancer outcome by restraining or enhancing tumour progression. Mast cells are one such kind of immune cell and in the present study the researchers have studied the communication between mast cells and glioma cells. A first finding was that substances produced by glioma cells stimulated the mast cells to produce a variety of substances that are involved in tumour development.

“In the next step we treated the gliom cells with culture medium from the stimulated mast cells, which consequently contained these substances, and we found that is reduced both growth rate, survival and migration capacity of the glioma cells. In addition, it reduced the “stemness” feature of the glioma cells and induced them to differentiate. These are all changes that suppress glioma cell tumourigenesis,” says Elena Chugunova.

The researchers then went on to determine the mechanism by which the mast cells regulate the glioma cells. They identified a possible signalling pathway that could explain why gliom cell growth and stemness decrease when they are exposed to substances from mast cells.

“Our results suggest a possibility to develop a new immunotherapy against glioma, where mast cell substances inhibit this signalling pathway. A combination of this immunotherapy, chemotherapy and local radiotherapy may activate and stimulate an anti-tumour response that will provide a better potential to treat patients,” says Elena Chugunova.

The results have been published in the journal Cellular Signalling.

More information:
Paper in Cellular Signalling
Elena Chugunova’s research