In a study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and elsewhere, scientists have discovered a potential drug target to treat renal cell carcinoma, cancer with a high mortality rate that is hard to detect.
They identified immune cells known as macrophages that express the gene IL1B as crucial to tumor development.
The team recommends IL1B macrophages as a promising therapeutic target to treat renal cell carcinoma given that this cell type has already been targeted using existing drugs that prevent lung cancer.
The next step, which is already being explored, will be clinical trials to prove that targeting IL1B can be used to effectively prevent renal cell carcinoma from forming or progressing.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the seventh most common cancer in the UK, with three-quarters of cases and the majority of deaths caused by clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC).
The disease has a 50% mortality rate, partially because three in five patients show no symptoms until the cancer is at a late stage.
In this study, researchers examined over 270,000 single cells and 100 micro-dissections from 12 patients with kidney tumors. Samples were taken from different parts of the tumor as well as normal kidney tissue.
They found a particular type of immune cell, a macrophage expressing the gene IL1B, as abundant at the fringes of tumors.
The findings will be of particular interest to those with VHL disease, who are highly likely to suffer numerous and persistent tumors.
While kidney tumors can be monitored and surgically removed before cancer can spread to other parts of the body, new ones will form and there is a limit to how many times patients can have surgery before losing kidney function.
The researchers are already planning clinical trials to test whether targeting IL1B macrophages is an effective treatment for RCC.
The fact that existing drugs targeting this pathway are proven to be effective in preventing some lung cancers offers hope that these trials may deliver promising results.
If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and scientists find the key to the treatment of kidney diseases.
For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about how to live long with kidney disease, and diets rich in calcium and potassium may benefit people with kidney stones.
The study was conducted by Ruoyan Li et al and published in Cancer Cell.
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