Leyla Raiani
Mar 21, 2012

To promote lasting impact, cancer drugs should force dying cells to trigger immune response

A new finding in basic science should trigger a “change in thinking” about how cancer drugs might be developed and tested.The emerging science described in a new report reveals how some dying cancer cells may trigger a lasting anti-cancer immune response that can prevent cancer relapses and improve the benefits of treatments. Researchers discovered that when cancer cells are dying via autophagy, it is the release of energy in the cancer cell, in the form of the chemical ATP, that alerts immune cells to the existence of a big problem. Autophagy, which literally means ‘self-eating,’ involves the digestion of some parts of a cell to create energy and keep that cell alive. This process triggers the immune system to recognize the cells as a foreign invader that should be destroyed. In order for this strategy to be effective, researchers will have to develop ways to measure how effectively cancer drugs promote autophagy.