Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Capturing Cancer
14 July 2012

Capturing Cancer

Our disease-fighting immune system is composed of different types of white blood cells, constantly on alert throughout our body. T cells lead the defence but can sometimes be thwarted. By studying breast cancer in mice, scientists are unravelling how this happens. The tumour (stained red) produces a protein called a tumour antigen. But T cells (pink) can’t ‘see’ this antigen until it’s been ingested by specialised cells (shown in green). Destruction of the tumour is usually triggered when T cells start interacting with these antigen-gobbling cells (interaction shown here as white and blue patches). However, with some types of cancer, this communion actually prevents T cells working, allowing the tumour to grow and spread to other organs. Knowing which cells impede T cells in this way could help scientists develop treatments to lift the barrier and boost the body’s defence.

Written by Roz Pidcock

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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