More effective immunotherapy is on the way


Classic blood pressure inhibitors may also help our immune system fight cancer cells better. This was discovered by scientists from UCLouvain's de Duve Institute, among others.

Our immune system protects us from disease by destroying unwanted invaders, such as viruses, bacteria or foreign cells. We owe this mainly to so-called T cells, a type of white blood cells. By definition, cancer cells are not a foreign body, so in principle they should not be recognised and eliminated by T cells. And yet it happens. T cells can indeed recognise tumour antigens, specific markers on the surface of cancer cells, and destroy the harmful cells.

While a treatment that boosts or stimulates the patient's own immune system already exists, this immunotherapy does not benefit all patients or work for all types of cancer. However, the de Duve Institute has now discovered that classic blood pressure-lowering drugs could have a beneficial effect on cancers resistant to standard immunotherapy. They could also prompt macrophages, i.e. the white blood cells that clean up all the mess left in our body by all kinds of pathogens, to elicit a stronger immune response from T cells so that they can more efficiently combat cancer cells.

New molecules are being developed that are non-toxic in the required doses, which is still the case with the current generation of blood pressure inhibitors.