April 19, 2024

DNA Barcoding Reveals Cancer Cells’ Ability To Evade Immune System Defenses

As the tumor develops, some cancer cells come to control the growth, shown by the orange and red ribbons. Immunotherapy is a reliable treatment for many cancers, in some people their cancer cells evolve to beat the immune system defenses. It is where interactions between growth cells and immune cells result in many cancerous cells being ruined by the immune system, but some are left unnoticed, which continue to grow and spread.
One way is to suppress the action of killer T-cells, which would usually damage damaging cells. The other is to minimize the expression of MHC1 on cells, which acts as a flag for the immune system to acknowledge hazardous cells.

” We know that breast cancer typically does not react well to immunotherapy, and we questioned if theres an intrinsic system allowing breast cancer cells to escape the immune system,” says first author Ms. Louise Baldwin, who is a PhD trainee in Associate Professor Alex Swarbricks laboratory at Garvan.
For the research study, the researchers used a technique called DNA barcoding, which tags cells with a known sequence and tracks the progression of tumor cells through time.
” We revealed that there are uncommon cancer cells efficient in leaving the body immune system and leaving treatment with immunotherapy,” Ms. Baldwin says.
The mechanisms might be used as possible targets for therapies, to stop tumorous cells from spreading and adjusting. Another future application could be in diagnosis, where a high number of cells might indicate which clients might not react adequately to immunotherapy.
The new study will be published today (November 7) in the journal Nature Communications.
In this video, Professor Alex Swarbrick discusses the research.
Although immunotherapy is an efficient treatment for many cancers, in some individuals their cancer cells progress to beat the immune system defenses. This process is known as immunoediting. It is where interactions between growth cells and immune cells result in many cancerous cells being ruined by the body immune system, however some remain undetected, which continue to grow and spread.
Mouse breast cancer cells tagged with a known DNA barcode, a sequence that was handed down from one generation of cells to the next, were used by the researchers.
The barcoding permitted the group to find where more aggressive, resistant cells came from, as they might trace it back to the initial cell to see if it had grown or shrunk.
” Lead author Dr. Simon Junankar desired to understand whether resistance was adaptive– whether cancer cells duck and weave– or are they pre-programmed to evade the body immune system,” says Associate Professor Alex Swarbrick, a lab head and Co-Lead of the Dynamic Cellular Ecosystems in Cancer Program at Garvan.
Professor Alex Swarbrick. Credit: Garvan Institute of Medical Research
The research study group found that even prior to treatment, the cancer cells had diversified. “Some cells had actually currently acquired the ability to avert immunity, indicating they have a natural capability to get away the body immune system,” he states.
The cells seem to do this with parallel techniques. One way is to reduce the action of killer T-cells, which would generally damage harmful cells. The other is to reduce the expression of MHC1 on cells, which acts as a flag for the immune system to recognize harmful cells.
” Most tumor cells vanish when the immune system gets changed on, but a small proportion keeps broadening and growing,” says Associate Professor Swarbrick.
” Tumors keep evolving and diversifying, and action by the immune system or treatment like chemotherapy is like pruning a tree– cancer cells get eliminated but the staying branches on the tree continue to grow.”
The scientists likewise investigated the genes of the cells, however there were no genes discovered to be associated. This suggests that epigenetics might be at play.
Recommendation: “DNA barcoding reveals ongoing immunoediting of clonal cancer populations throughout metastatic progression and immunotherapy action” 7 November 2022, Nature Communications.DOI: 10.1038/ s41467-022-34041-x.
Partner Professor Swarbrick is a Conjoint Associate Professor at St Vincents Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney.
This research study was supported by research grants from the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). Louise Baldwin is supported by an Australian Government research training (RTP) stipend and Associate Professor Swarbrick is the recipient of a research fellowship from the NHMRC.

As the tumor develops, some cancer cells come to control the tumor, revealed by the orange and red ribbons. This reveals these cancer cells have a pre-existing ability to leave the immune system and can bring on growing, even after treatment.
Utilizing DNA barcodes to track cancer cells through time, scientists show that cells within a cancer have diverse abilities to leave immune system defenses.
According to a brand-new clinical research study from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, some cancer cells can deploy parallel mechanisms to avert the immune systems defenses along with withstand immunotherapy treatment.
Breast cancer cells have the ability to replicate and metastasize by suppressing the action of killer T-cells and impeding the capability of the body immune system to flag tumor cells for damage, the scientists discovered.