Lowering blood levels of cholesterol could improve the cancer-fighting ability of certain immune system cells, called Tc9 cells, suggests a study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
In earlier studies, the researchers had determined that Tc9 cells have stronger anti-tumor effects than other types of T-cells (cells that are produced in or processed by the thymus gland and involved in the body’s immune response). This research, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, details the mechanisms of action that give these T-cells their anti-cancer properties, and demonstrates how this ability can be fine-tuned to improve immunotherapy – cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
First, the researchers used gene profiling and discovered Tc9 cells contain lower levels of cholesterol than other T-cells. Then, they administered cholesterol-lowering drugs to the cells and found this stimulated anti-cancer pathways in the cells. Finally, the researchers showed that reducing cholesterol levels before immunotherapy improved the ability of the T-cells to destroy cancer cells.