Region of human chromosome 9 identified that influences response to immune checkpoint therapy
Collectively known as head and neck cancers, tumours in the throat, mouth and nose have a diversity of origins. Most are squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), beginning in so-called squamous cells (pictured, in grey, with immune T cells in red), that line surfaces like the respiratory tract. Some cancers, particularly on the base of the tongue or tonsils, are linked to infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), but most are unrelated; other risk factors include alcohol and tobacco consumption, and genetic abnormalities. In particular, researchers have identified specific areas of chromosome 9, where gains and losses of sections of DNA are associated with how the cancers respond to immune checkpoint therapy, a form of treatment that works by blocking signalling processes that normally protect cells from destruction by immune cells. Better understanding these genetic factors should lead to more personalised and effective care, for cancers that are often unresponsive to current treatments.
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