Making tumors attackable again
On one hand, IL-32 leads to the maturation and activation of so-called dendritic cells which are responsible for the recognition of foreign structures. In addition, IL-32 also triggers macrophages or scavenger cells to secrete attractants for the T cells. This is how these immune cells find their way to the tumor, where they can eliminate the cancer cells.
Tumors have to escape detection by the immune system for them to be able to grow. This is why they settle in immunosuppressed environments which are hospitable for cancer growth. Clearly, IL-32 is capable of making these protective niches of the tumor accessible to the immune system again. With trials on mice, the researchers led by Schenk have proven that the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors can be improved by the simultaneous administration of IL-32.
Combination treatment a "promising therapeutic strategy"
In animal models, the additionally administered IL-32 did not cause any side effects. Whether these results can be transferred to humans remains to be seen, says Schenk. However, a further argument certainly speaks for the fact that the combination treatment represents a “promising strategy for treatment”, as the researchers led by Schenk write in their recently published specialist article in the «The Journal of Clinical Investigation insight». As they have been able to prove with bioinformatic analyses, melanoma patients with more IL-32 activity have an improved life expectancy, from a statistical point of view.
Mirjam Schenk's research is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the foundation for experimental biomedicine, the Helmut Horten foundation, the foundation for clinical-experimental tumor research and the Wilhelm Sander foundation.