Chemical may stop growth of tumors

A chemical found in tumors may help stop tumor growth, according to a new study.

UIC researchers report that increasing expression of a chemical cytokine called LIGHT in mice with colon cancer activated the immune system’s natural cancer-killing T-cells and caused primary tumors and metastatic tumors in the liver to shrink.

LIGHT is an immune-stimulating chemical messenger previously found to have low levels of expression in patients with colon cancer metastases. The results are published in Cancer Research.

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. and, despite advances in treatment, long-term survival of patients with liver metastases is rare.

“For most patients with colon cancer that has spread to the liver, current treatments are palliative and not curative,” said Ajay Maker, associate professor of surgery in the College of Medicine and corresponding author on the paper.

“And while studies have suggested that immunotherapy may be a promising approach for advanced cancers, the use of such treatments for advanced gastrointestinal metastases have not yet been very successful.”

Maker, a surgical oncologist, said the study is exciting because it looks at an immunotherapy intervention for a previously unresponsive gastrointestinal cancer.

The intervention, he said, essentially trains the immune system to recognize and attack the tumor, and to protect against additional tumor formation — a significant issue in colon cancer.

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