Although treatments have improved and overall cancer deaths are on the decline, the thought of actually curing the disease has remained far out of reach for scientists.
But there are some people whose bodies are able to fend off cancer — and a surprising new discovery might hold some important clues.
A very special cell
While we all have T-cells that can help boost our natural immunity and disease-fighting capabilities, some people possess a different version that can apparently target cancer.
Those who have these cells are believed to be able not only to effectively battle existing cancer but also forestall the formation of new tumors.
Obviously, scientists are excited about this discovery and believe that it could serve as the basis for a new type of cancer therapy.
What it really means
The research, conducted by a team at Cardiff University, focused on the differences between patients who responded well to treatment and those who didn’t.
As lead researcher Andy Sewell explained, a primary factor in the successful cases was the presence of a “multipronged killer T-cell,” which he said “was shown to be substantially better at recognizing cancer than a normal anticancer killer T-cell.”
High concentrations of these cells were found in the blood of those who beat cancer, whereas those who saw their tumors grow and spread did not have any of them.
More evidence needed
At this point, researchers say they need to determine exactly what the link is between these cells and cancer eradication.
Dr. Garry Dolton, another lead author of the study, said that the next step will involve “examining whether these cells are linked to a good prognosis.”
After that, he was optimistic that “we can genetically engineer this type of T-cell in the laboratory” and more effectively treat patients.