T cells – members of our body’s defence team – roam around detecting and killing infected or damaged cells. To make certain they don’t harm healthy tissue, they only inject their deadly poisons once there is a perfect match between their unique receptor [a protein on their surface] and markers on ‘corrupted’ cells. Cancer evades attack because it looks very similar to normal cells. So researchers have taken a patient’s T cells, genetically-modified their receptor so it can react with cancer and then returned them. This is a horizontal scan through the belly of a patient with advanced cancer (pelvic bones, and backbone at the bottom of scan in white). The cancer (circled in yellow) seen before T cell treatment (top) cannot be detected two years later (bottom). Although good news, it doesn’t work every time so researchers are working on how to optimise the T cell receptor for each patient.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.