Enzyme's role in immunotherapy

TILs in human lung cancer and expression of CD39 by these cells (in green and red).
TILs in human lung cancer and expression of CD39 by these cells (in green and red).PHOTO: SINGAPORE IMMUNOLOGY NETWORK

Cancer patients who have more white blood cells containing a particular enzyme will respond better to immunotherapy treatments, a study has shown.

Not all white blood cells that migrate into tumours - known as tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) - will fight cancer cells.

A research team led by A*Star's Singapore Immunology Network have found that white blood cells with the enzyme CD39 are more useful in destroying cancer cells.

The amount of CD39 in white blood cells varies from person to person. Further research showed that patients whose TILs contained low amounts of CD39 had a relatively low response rate to immunotherapies such as checkpoint blockade immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy refers to cancer treatments that harness the body's natural defences to fight cancer.

The study's findings can potentially help clinicians identify patients who are more likely to benefit from immunotherapy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'Enzyme's role in immunotherapy'. Print Edition | Subscribe