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Russian and Belgian scientists have shown for the first time that specific molecules are released at early stages of cancer cell death by ferroptosis to activate the immune response

Over the last decade, scientists have reached a conclusion that the development of malignant neoplasms and their resistance to therapy is largely determined by tumour cells evading the immune defence. By using the methods that trigger immunogenic cell death (ICD), it is possible to activate a specific immune response that comes into play in the fight against malignant cells that have not been removed after surgery and tumour therapy, which results in a long-term remission or even complete recovery of the patient.

To date, about 16 types of cell death are known, but not all of them have immunogenic properties. As part of the Russian Science Foundation's project "Mechanisms of Cell Death in Photodynamic Therapy of Neurooncological Diseases" (Project No. 18-15-00279), led by Professor Dmitri Krysko, researchers of the Lobachevsky University's Institute of Biology and Biomedicine (Director of the Institute, Dr. Maria Vedunova, Dr. Tatiana Mishchenko, PhD student Victoria Turubanova) together with their colleagues from Ghent University (PhD student Yulia Efimova and Prof. Olga Krysko) investigated the possibility of improving the effectiveness of antitumour therapy by activating ferroptosis, a recently discovered mechanism of cell death.

Описание механизма действия

In their recent article «Vaccination with early ferroptotic cancer cells induces efficient anti-tumour immunity» published in the highly ranked international Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (journal impact factor 10.2), the authors have shown for the first time that at the early stages of cancer cell death involving ferroptosis, specific mediator molecules known as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) are released. When mobilized, DAMPs act to attract and promote maturation of antigen-presenting cells (dendritic cells) and then activate the immune response.

«The animal model of prophylactic vaccination with such dying tumour cells shows a significant slowdown in the growth of the experimental tumour,» — says Maria Vedunova, Director of UNN Institute of Biology and Biomedicine.

At present, scientists continue active research into the mechanisms of this type of cell death and believe that this experimental approach can be used in the future as a new way to effectively fight tumours that are hard to treat by means of traditional therapy.