The first study to investigate the role of interleukin-9 in melanoma tumour immunity
High expression of a cell-signalling molecule, interleukin-9, in immune cells inhibits melanoma growth
- Date : 16 Jul 2012
- Topic : Melanoma
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have made a groundbreaking discovery that will shape the future of melanoma therapy. The team, led by Dr Thomas Kupper, chair of the BWH Department of Dermatology, and Rahul Purwar, PhD, found that high expression of a cell-signalling molecule, known as interleukin-9, in immune cells inhibits melanoma growth. Their findings were published online in the July 8, 2012 issue of Nature Medicine.
After observing mice without genes responsible for development of an immune T helper cell 17 (TH17), researchers found that these mice had significant resistance to melanoma tumour growth, suggesting that blockade of the TH17 cell pathway favoured tumour inhibition. The researchers also noticed that the mice expressed high amounts of interleukin-9.
A new finding paves the way for future studies that will assess the role of interleukin-9 and TH9 cells in human cancer therapy
These were unexpected results, which led to examine a possible contribution of interleukin-9 to cancer growth suppression. The researchers next treated melanoma-bearing mice with T helper cell 9 (TH9), an immune cell that produces interleukin-9. They saw that these mice also had a profound resistance to melanoma growth. This is the first reported finding showing an anti-tumour effect of TH9 cells.
Moreover, the researchers were able to detect TH9 cells in both normal human blood and skin, specifically in skin-resident memory T cells and memory T cells in peripheral blood mono-nuclear cells. In contrast, TH9 cells were either absent or present at very low levels in human melanoma. This new finding paves the way for future studies that will assess the role of interleukin-9 and TH9 cells in human cancer therapy.
Immunotherapy of cancer is coming of age, and there have been exciting recent results in patients with melanoma treated with drugs that stimulate the immune system. The researchers hope that their results will also translate to the treatment of melanoma patients, but much work still needs to be done.
According to the researchers, other cell-signalling molecules have been used in treating melanoma; however, this study is the first to investigate the role of interleukin-9 in melanoma tumour immunity.
This research was supported by the United States National Institutes of Health (R01 AI-41707, R01 AI-097128, P50 CA-093683, R01-AR-056720, R03-MH-095529 and Z01-ES-101586) and The Skin Cancer Foundation.
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