University of Michigan findings suggest that a whole different way of thinking about chemotherapy resistance and the potential to harness immunotherapy drugs to treat ovarian cancer. Immune cells can help to reverse chemotherapy resistance in ovarian cancer.
"Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at late stages, so chemotherapy is a key part of treatment. Most patients will respond to it at first, but everybody develops chemo-resistance. And that's when ovarian cancer becomes deadly," says study author J. Rebecca Liu.
"In the past, we've thought the resistance was caused by genetic changes in tumor cells. But we found that's not the whole story," she said.
Ovarian cancer is typically treated with cisplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy. The researchers have found that fibroblasts blocked platinum. These cells prevented platinum from accumulating in the tumor and protected the tumor cells from being killed off by cisplatin. Immune T cells, overruled the protection of the fibroblasts. When researchers added the immune T cells to the fibroblasts, the tumor cells began to die off.
"T cells are the soldiers of the immune system. We already know that if you have a lot of T cells in a tumor, you have better outcomes. Now we see that the immune system can also impact chemotherapy resistance," says study author Weiping Zou.
The researchers suggest that combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy may be effective against ovarian cancer.
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