Here’s the latest health breakthrough from the National Cancer Institute: scientists have discovered a new class of human immune cells that can effectively wipe out tumor cells. These cells, which are quite rare and comprise only one to two percent of T cells, behave like stem cells. Stem cells, you might remember, are able to divide and self-renew. This is an incredible bonus when it comes to the fight against tumor cells, which can grow rapidly and spread quickly.
These special T cells may be more effective than any previously discovered T cells at treating tumors. Specifically, they are a type of white blood cell that triggers a prolonged immune attack against tumor cells. They do this in two ways: they continuously make killer T cells; and they continuously regenerate themselves.
Scientists knew that these special T cells should theoretically exist, but up until now, the discovery of the cells had remained elusive.
This is exciting health news. Why? Because most therapies currently used in the treatment of cancers usually only work for a short period of time. However, the specialized T cells just discovered can continually regenerated themselves and create a long-term treatment against cancer cells — with the added bonus that this treatment is developed right in your own immune system. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists also report that its possible these T cells may develop a permanent system for killing tumor cells.
Of course, all cells age and these lymphocytes won’t be exempt from that process. As the T cells age, they could lose some of their ability to replicate or respond to a tumor cell. But, according to the NCI scientists, even people who are very old (a hundred years), still have some T cells that are young. Scientists knew this was likely the case because older people still fight off diseases and therefore must be replenishing their stock of T cells.
It will be very interesting to see where the scientists go with this new discovery and how they can use it to treat cancers that spread quickly.