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Researchers Discover Cell-Signaling Molecule in Immune System That May Help Treat Skin Cancer

After observing mice without genes responsible for the development of an immune cell called T helper cell 17 (TH17), researchers found that these mice had significant resistance to melanoma tumor growth, suggesting that blockade of the TH17 cell pathway favored tumor inhibition. The researchers also noticed that the mice expressed high amounts of interleukin-9.

The investigators 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 resistance to melanoma growth. This was the first reported finding showing an anti-tumor effect of TH9 cells.

Moreover, the researchers were able to detect TH9 cells in both normal human blood and skin. 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.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Skin Cancer Foundation.

More information about the study is available from Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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