Thanks to CRISPR, genes in cancer immunotherapy are identified

Thanks to CRISPR, genes in cancer immunotherapy are identified

Strengthening the natural defenses of our body, such as T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells, so that they can locate and destroy cancer cells, is the immunotherapy treatment works against some types of tumors. However, carrying out this treatment involves many difficulties.

For example, it is difficult to know if the treatment is working (if it is not, the cancer could become more resistant or spread). However, thanks to CRISPR, now the treatment could be easier to carry out thanks to the identification of the genes that intervene in the mechanism of elimination of tumors by means of T lymphocytes .

Identifying more than 100 genes

A team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute (INC), in the United States, coordinated by Nicholas P. Restifo , an expert in immunology from this institution, has presented in the journal Nature the conclusions of a large study in which more of one hundred genes that intervene in the mechanism that facilitates the elimination of tumors through the use of the aforementioned T lymphocytes .

To do this, gene editing technology called CRISPR was used, which has allowed them to consecutively "turn off" certain genes in melanoma cells. The genetic profiles of 11,000 individuals collected in the Cancer Genome Atlas were examined. As Shashank Patel , one of the INC Biomedical Sciences experts who has participated in this work, explains:

The results show that many genes play a key role in the success of this cancer treatment, far more than we initially expected.

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If the genes described in this study are validated in clinical trials, exceptional progress will be made in this class of treatments. According to Restifo :

If we finally understand the mechanisms involved in resistance to immunotherapy, we will be able to develop new tactics to combat the disease. In fact, in the future, this finding could accelerate the development of drugs that prevent tumor cells from employing their escape mechanisms and thereby help patients experience a fully satisfactory response.

At the origin of CRISPR is the Spanish scientist Francis Mojica , who discovered in the DNA of some microbes in the salt flats of Santa Pola (Alicante) some sequences that served as defense against viruses.