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Starving ‘Killer Cells’ Of Oxygen Could Help Destroy Cancerous Tumors

Mountain climbers and endurance athletes are not the only ones to benefit from altitude training – that is, learning to perform well under low-oxygen conditions. It turns out that cancer-fighting cells of the immune system can also improve their performance through a cellular version of such a regimen.

In a study published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have shown that immune system’s killer T cells (lymphocytes that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity) destroy cancerous tumors much more effectively after being starved for oxygen.

Harnessing the immune system to battle malignancy – an approach known as cancer immunotherapy – has already started saving the lives of cancer patients in the past few years. In one major version of this approach, killer T cells are removed from the patient’s blood, grown in a laboratory dish and adapted to identifying and destroying cancerous cells; they are then returned to the patient’s bloodstream

 

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