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Israeli researchers develop method to measure interaction between immune and cancer cells

Illustrative - Cancer cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

A team of Israeli researchers from Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv have developed an innovative method to directly measure the interactions between attacking cancer cells and defending immune cells. The primary aim of this new technique is to enhance the development of more effective immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients.

Dr. Shahar Alon, the lead researcher of the project at Bar Ilan's Faculty of Engineering, explained the value of the new method.

“Cancer cells have the ability to manipulate immune cells, evading the body’s natural defenses. By quantifying the molecular changes that occur when immune cells encounter cancer cells, we gain a deeper understanding of this complex interplay,” Alon explained.

Student researchers Tal Goldberg and Michal Danino discovered that immune cells display unique genetic signatures while encountering cancer cells.

Moshe Bar Haim, CEO of the Israel Cancer Association, which financed the project, expressed optimism concerning upgraded future treatment of cancer.

“This new understanding of the immune system’s response to cancer cells holds promise for more effective treatments and higher recovery rates,” Bar Haim stated.

As the global population ages, particularly in advanced economies, the number of cancer cases worldwide has risen. In 2020, there were approximately 18 million new cancer cases globally, with breast and lung cancers being the most common types.

The tiny State of Israel makes a disproportionately large contribution to global cancer research.

In March 2023, an Israeli research team from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced the discovery of a potential new treatment for lethal pancreatic cancer.

While pancreatic cancer reportedly only constitutes 3% of all official cancer cases in the West, some 7% of all cancer-related deaths are attributed to this type of cancer. Less than 10% of individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live for more than a few years.

In June 2023, an Israeli research team from Sheba Medical Center and Tel Aviv University said they had reached a “breakthrough” in the treatment of lethal skin cancer. This type of cancer is particularly common in warm climates where people are exposed to the strong sun.

Prof. Shoshana Greenberger, one of the main leader researchers from Sheba Medical Center voiced optimism about an efficient future treatment of lethal skin cancer.

“Our main research question was how melanoma impacts the formation of lymph vessels, through which it then metastasizes,” Greenberger stated. “We demonstrated for the first time that in the first stage, in the epidermis, melanoma cells secrete extracellular vesicles called melanosomes,” she added.

Last month, Israeli researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva announced a new method to kill colorectal cancer (CRC) metastases with minimal negative effects on the body’s healthy cells.

The lead researcher Prof. Ayelet David explained the benefit of the innovative new treatment method.

“Conventional chemotherapy involves the use of small-molecule drugs that are toxic to rapidly dividing cells. The problem is that the chemotherapy lacks cell specificity. The medication travels through the bloodstream and reaches not only the [cancerous] tumor but also healthy tissues, damages fast-growing healthy cells, and causes side effects,” she said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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