Parasite’s Proteins Trigger Strong Immune Response in Mice with Aggressive Ovarian Cancer

Parasite’s Proteins Trigger Strong Immune Response in Mice with Aggressive Ovarian Cancer
Proteins secreted by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii were found to induce the immune system to turn against established ovarian cancer in mice. The findings, by Geisel School of Medicine researchers, are reported in the study, "Secretion of Rhoptry and Dense Granule Effector Proteins by Nonreplicating Toxoplasma gondii Uracil Auxotrophs Controls the Development of Antitumor Immunity," published in PLOS Genetics. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that infects warm-blooded vertebrates when ingested through contaminated water or food. To survive the acute infection phase and establish a latent infection that is crucial for the transmission of the parasite into new hosts, T. gondii manipulates the host's immune responses by secreting specific effector proteins. Recently, mice with a form of highly aggressive ovarian cancer were given a vaccine with a safe, non-replicating strain of T. gondii that produced such a potent anti-tumor immunity that it effectively reversed what is known as the phenomenon of immune tolerance — essentially, an immune system that struggles to identify which cells it should be attacking. This is important because the immune suppression exerted by cancer cells often impairs the immune system from recognizing malignant cells, resulting in a less effective immune response. Now, researchers deleted multiple genes for the known secreted effector proteins used in the T. gondii vaccine, and injected the altered parasite
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