Immune response to tumour cells could aid cancer battle

A new research at the University of Leicester has developed a novel immunotherapeutic approach with potential for cancer treatment.

Malignant tumours are the second main cause of death worldwide, with haematological malignancies representing 10%. Current treatment strategies, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stem cell transplantation, or a combination of them, are mostly effective but may induce serious side effects to normal tissues. In addition, tumours are developing resistance against most of these conventional therapies.

A PhD student with the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, Yehia Mohamed, has shown that tumour “hybrid” cell lines can induce immune responses against tumour cells in the lab, as opposed to directly attacking them. As a result, the patients’ tumour cells, as well as related cell lines, were killed, his findings reveal.

With tumour cells evolving mechanisms for evading the immune responses and making the development of strategies for inducing strong anti-tumour immunity difficult, Mohamed’s research comes at a right time by providing a new solution for this issue.

Mohamed explained:

 “The tumour-specific cellular vaccines were created by fusing blood related tumour cells with the immunostimulatory cell line HMy2. These fusion cells showed enhanced ability to stimulate immune responses in blood cells from both tumour patients and normal individuals. His results suggest that hybrid cell lines could be used as immunotherapeutic agents for treatment of several types of haematological and non-haematological tumours.

“These data provide promising hope for developing more effective, safe, and long-lasting therapies of different types of tumours.”

Dr Michael Browning, of the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, added: 

“There is growing evidence that the immune system plays a role in preventing cancer development, and that activating immune effectors in the right way may offer novel forms of cancer treatment. 

“If developed further, the methods used in Mohamed’s PhD project could offer a new way of treating certain cancer patients, by inducing tumour-killing cells from their blood in the lab, and then giving them back to the patient to seek out and kill any remaining tumour cells.”

  • This research is being presented at the Festival of Postgraduate Research on Thursday, 16 June.  An annual one-day exhibition of postgraduate research offers organisations and the public the opportunity to meet the next generation of innovators and cutting-edge researchers. More than 50 University of Leicester students will explain the real world implications of their research in an engaging and accessible way. The event is open to the public and free to attend. More information at

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