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Cellular Defectors

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge are targeting immune cells that turn into traitors by protecting cancerous tumors rather than fighting against them, according to the New Scientist's Jessica Hamzelou. Little is known about these cellular defectors, which were first discovered in the tumor microenvironment 20 years ago, express fibroblast activation protein, and had not been functionally explored until now, Hamzelou says. In order to elucidate the cells' functions, Cambridge's Douglas Fearon and his team injected mice with lung or pancreas tumors and then selectively killed FAP-expressing cells with a diphtheria toxin. Once the the FAP-expressing cells were eliminated, the tumors stopped growing, Hamzelou reports. Fearon et al. published their findings in this week's Science. This team is now studying whether FAP-expressing cells exist elsewhere in the body, and what purposes they may serve, before attempting to develop a cancer therapy based on them, she adds.

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