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Understanding the Role of Regulatory T Cells in Breast Cancer Metastasis

Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women accounting for 24 percent of new cancer cases worldwide and 15 percent of cancer deaths in 2018. While survival rates for breast cancer patients are improving with the help of early detection, the incurable metastatic stage of the disease has a poor prognosis, resulting in most breast cancer deaths. Christine Evans-Pughe explains more about the role of regulatory T cells in breast cancer metastasis.

Extract:

Understanding the Role of Regulatory T Cells in Breast Cancer Metastasis

While survival rates for breast cancer patients are improving with the help of early detection, the incurable metastatic stage of the disease has a poor prognosis, resulting in most breast cancer deaths. Of the 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually worldwide, around 30 percent of patients diagnosed with localised disease get metastases in distant organs.

How the immune system helps or hinders metastases is a promising field of breast cancer research. In the micro[1]environment in the tumour, for example, tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) are associated with invasion, metastasis, and a worse prognosis. But tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are associated with a better outcome.

Cancers host a plethora of other immune cell subsets too, such as lymphocytes, various myeloid cells, and innate lymphoid cells, some of which aid and abet the tumour, while others hinder its progress.

Kevin Kos, a molecular immunologist in Karin de Visser’s Inflammation and Cancer research group at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI)- in Amsterdam, and researcher of Oncode Institute, has been using Qlucore’s Omics Explorer for his PhD research on the role of T regulatory cells (Tregs) in breast cancer metastasis.

“Tregs act like the military policemen among the white blood cell population. Whereas other white blood cells fight pathogens, Tregs regulate immune responses to ensure that nothing goes out of control, making sure there isn’t excessive inflammation (Kos and de Visser, 2021). When this goes wrong, such as in auto-immune diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease, Tregs are either dysfunctional or reduced,” Kos explains.

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