Six years ago, researchers noticed that in the wake of a cleared infection, T cells produced a steroid to slow from “full ahead” to “standby.” At the time, the T cells themselves were observed to be in control of their engine order telegraph. It was suspected, however, that cancer, too, might reposition the telegraph’s handle. That suspicion has just been confirmed.
A new study from researchers representing the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge, and MRC Cancer Unit demonstrates that tumors somehow signal T cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids, effectively taking control of the immune system’s anticancer flagship. By inducing T cells to cut their engines, tumors can escape the immune system.