Grant awarded to study interaction of immune system with cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women and sadly, the incident rates are increasing. Therefore, there is a lot of interest in understanding how to treat and prevent this type of cancer from an immunotherapy perspective.

Cheryl Deslaurier - 03 September 2020

The Cancer Research Society and CIHR have awarded a $120,000 research grant to Dr. Shokrollah Elahi to conduct a study on breast cancer as it relates to immature red blood cells.

Elahi and his team have been working with immature red blood cells, otherwise known as Erythroid Progenitors, in many studies. In this study, their goal is to understand the immune system and how it fights cancer, especially in the tumour itself.

They found through preliminary data that immature red blood cells, as stem cells of red blood cells, suppress the immune response against cancer. Elahi's lab and other groups, by using multiple models, have shown that these immature red blood cells suppress the immune system and can expand in the blood of women with breast cancer, including within the tumour itself, ultimately preventing the body from fighting the cancer.

Elahi says that more importantly, they found that these immature cells secrete a special protein called artemin, which binds to the breast cancer tumour and, following this binding, expands cancer cells.

This study will continue the work to investigate how this protein can be blocked to prevent breast cancer progression.