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Macrophage management restores post-cancer immune system

Targeting specific cells in the body may reverse the effects of cancer on the immune system, according to results from a joint study between Curtin School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Anatomy at University of Western Australia. 

Dr Connie Jackaman, early career development fellow at the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, is leading a study focused on older people and the capacity of their immune system in dealing with cancers.

According to Jackaman, the immune system in older people – even those that are healthy – was skewed towards immune suppression.

However, research suggests that this could be mediated by targeting macrophages – a cell found in the immune system.

Researchers tracked particular cells within the immune system of young and geriatric mice – finding that deterioration could be decreased by activating other cell types.

“The most important outcome from this study was that activating these macrophages restored both age-related and tumor-induced immune dysfunction,” Jackaman said.

“That is, we could make elderly cells young again by targeting them in the right way, the outcome of which could have real implications for cancer immunotherapy in the elderly.”

This is the first research undertaken on the topic, and findings were recently published in Aging Cell.

The project was undertaken within the new CHIRI Biosciences Research Facility hosted at Curtin’s Bentley campus and supported by the Cancer Council WA’s Suzanne Cavanagh Early Career Investment Scheme.

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