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Unveiling a Potential Breakthrough: Human Type 2 Innate Lymphoid Cells Target Cancer in Preclinical Study

In a remarkable stride towards advancing cancer therapeutics, researchers at City of Hope have unveiled groundbreaking findings in their preclinical study titled “Therapeutic Application of Human Type 2 Innate Lymphoid Cells via Induction of Granzyme B-Mediated Tumor Cell Death.” This research signals a potential breakthrough in the fight against cancer, revealing the capability of human Type 2 Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILC2s) to combat tumor cells through the induction of granzyme B-mediated cell death.

Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are a group of immune cells that play a pivotal role in the body’s defense against infections and diseases. Among them, Type 2 Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILC2s) are known for their involvement in allergic responses and tissue repair. However, the recent discovery by City of Hope researchers has shed light on an unexpected facet of ILC2s – their potential in targeting and attacking cancer cells.

The Preclinical Study

The research team conducted an extensive preclinical study to investigate the therapeutic applications of human ILC2s in the context of cancer treatment. The study focused on understanding the mechanisms by which these cells could be harnessed to induce tumor cell death, with a specific emphasis on the role of granzyme B, a protein associated with immune-mediated cell death.

In particular, Yu and the team isolated the cells from a blood sample, then expanded ILC2s 2,000-fold from those harvested in the body using a recently developed platform. Subsequently, they injected the ex vivo expanded ILC2s into mouse models that had previously been engrafted human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or a solid tumor like long or pancreatic cancer.

Innate lymphoid cells in the gut. Animation by Nucleus.

Key Findings

The results of the study were nothing short of groundbreaking. The researchers identified that human ILC2s possess a unique ability to selectively target tumor cells and induce their death through the release of granzyme B.

This discovery not only highlights the untapped potential of ILC2s in cancer therapy but also provides a novel avenue for developing targeted treatments with minimal impact on healthy cells.

As observed by Jianhua Yu, PhD, professor at the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and senior author of this study, “The City of Hope team has identified human ILC2 cells as a new member of the cell family capable of directly killing all types of cancers, including blood cancers and solid tumors.” The professor also outlines the possible clinical applications of such a technology: “Unlike T cell-based therapies, such as CAR T cells, which necessitate using the patient’s own cells due to their specific characteristics, ILC2s might be sourced from healthy donors, presenting a distinct potential therapeutic approach as an allogeneic and ‘off-the-shelf’ product.”

Potential Therapeutic Applications

The identification of human ILC2s as potent anti-cancer agents opens up exciting possibilities for therapeutic applications. Harnessing these cells could lead to the development of innovative and targeted immunotherapies designed to combat various types of cancer. The specificity of ILC2s in targeting tumor cells suggests a potential for reducing side effects commonly associated with traditional cancer treatments.

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