New immunotherapy prevents ovarian cancer from growing

New immunotherapy prevents ovarian cancer from growing

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Improved treatment for ovarian cancer in prospect?

Vague and uncharacteristic symptoms of malignant ovarian cancer often mean that the disease is diagnosed very late. This causes many people to die from the disease. The results of a new study might help here in the future. They show that ovarian cancer can spread and tumors can be reduced by removing some specific immune cells from the fat in the abdominal cavity.

A recent study by Aarhus University in Denmark found that ovarian cancer can be treated effectively by removing specific immune cells. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Experimental Medicine".

Role of macrophages in ovarian cancer?

The study carried out on mice indicated that it seems possible to prevent the spread of ovarian cancer and to reduce tumors. For this, some specific immune cells, called macrophages, have to be removed from the fat (omental fat) stored in the abdominal cavity.

Ovarian cancer cells can secrete into the abdominal cavity

Ovarian cancer most often occurs in the fallopian tubes. The starting point for the research project was the knowledge that cells of this type of cancer can detach and secrete into the abdominal cavity.

Cancer cells are stored in the current fat

Since this process occurs very early in the course of the disease, the detached cancer cells have to attach themselves to something to ensure their survival. In this case, the instantaneous fat becomes a kind of host for cells that would otherwise die. When the tumor cells accumulate in this fat, two specific types of immune cells change their character. This is how they begin to support the disease.

What changes could be observed?

One of the types of macrophages that is already present in the tissue begins to support the tumor as it spreads to other organs in the abdominal cavity. At the same time, the second type of macrophage, which comes from the bloodstream and is recruited in response to the infiltration of tumor cells into the instantaneous fat, begins to counteract the immune system's attempt to fight the invasive cancer cells. In this way, they help the tumor to grow.

Treatment inhibited spreading and shrinking tumors

In the study, the researchers first experimented with the removal of the macrophages already found in the tissue, which led to the realization that this inhibits the spread of cancer in the abdominal cavity. However, this did not reduce the tumor in the oral fat. When the researchers simultaneously removed the above macrophages from the bloodstream, the result was both less spread and a shrinking tumor.

Differences to normal immunotherapy

The new type of therapy differs from the typical immunotherapy, which includes supporting the T cells to kill tumors. This form of immunotherapy has become an integral part of modern immunological treatment. The new treatment is also immunotherapy, but focuses on another part of the immune system.

More research is needed

The research results have obvious potential for improved treatment of ovarian cancer in the future, but with the important limitation that the tests have so far only been performed on mice. The next step is to develop a drug that can be tested on humans. However, the study is already leading to a deeper understanding of what helps the body to develop ovarian cancer and what affects it. The results are also very interesting because similar macrophages from the bloodstream also occur in models for skin cancer. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Anders Etzerodt, Morgane Moulin, Thomas Koed Doktor, Marcello Delfini, Noushine Mossadegh-Keller et al .: Tissue-resident macrophages in omentum promote metastatic spread of ovarian cancer, in Journal of Experimental Medicine (published January 17, 2020), Journal of Experimental Medicine

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