Antibody Signal May Redirect Inflammation to Fuel Cancer

By Wallace Ravven, UCSF News Services | February 19, 2007

As evidence mounts that the body's normally protective inflammation response can drive some precancerous tissues to become fully malignant, UCSF scientists report discovering an apparent trigger to this potentially deadly process.

Typically, the "innate" immune system's Pac-Man-like white blood cells, or leukocytes, engulf and destroy invading microbes when receptors on their surface receive a signal from serum in the blood -- often an antibody produced by a B cell in the separately evolved "acquired" immune system.

Now UCSF researchers have found that in the presence of precancerous tissue, leukocyte antibody receptors can also be activated to turn on a dangerously different program: inducing leukocytes to boost cell growth, increase the number of blood vessels and "remodel" tissue in the area -- all of which help cancer develop.

The finding adds a critical and surprising detail to the emerging view that inflammation, usually a helpful response to invading pathogens, can become misdirected and fuel cancer.

The new research was presented today (February 19) by UCSF scientist Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in a session titled "healthy aging: inflammation and chronic diseases."

Read more at Wallace Ravven, UCSF News Services