Over the past decade, researchers have made great strides in the development and administration of cancer immunotherapies, which use the body’s own immune system to treat disease. However, the therapies don’t work for every person or with every type of cancer, and gaps in our understanding of exactly how the body mounts an anti-cancer immune response has slowed progress toward making them universally effective.

In a new study, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Amsterdam have brought insight into one crucial step in the anti-cancer immune response process: T cell priming.

Previous studies implied that a single mechanism — antigen cross presentation — is responsible for priming T cells, the immune system’s disease fighters, to identify and attack cancer cells. The new study found that a second mechanism, known as MHC-I cross-dressing, is also effective in prompting a T cell response.

“What’s significant is that we identified a totally unique pathway whereby tumors and the immune system talk to each other,” said Justin Kline, MD, an associate professor of medicine at UChicago Medicine and an author of the study. “Knowing that this pathway exists might have implications for how we think about vaccine design in the future or how we predict which tumor antigens might be best to target.”

The study, “Dendritic cells can prime anti-tumor CD8+ T cell responses through major histocompatibility complex cross-dressing”, published May 25, 2022 in Immunity.


Originally reported in The Forefront, 6/2/2022