March 29, 2023

Scientists at Karolinska University have found immune cells specific to women with pancreatic cancer. The discovery may explain why the effectiveness of immunotherapy often differs between men and women. The study was published in the journal Cancer Research.

Scientists report traitor cells in women


The authors of the publication write that pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is almost always fatal, and patients live an average of four to six months after diagnosis.

Immunotherapy, a promising method of stimulating the immune system to attack cancer cells, has improved survival in melanoma, lung, kidney and liver cancers in recent years. However, immunotherapy is much less effective against pancreatic cancer due to the complex immune environment of this type of cancer.

The researchers conducted a series of analyzes and experiments using samples from human cancer patients, 3D models of pancreatic cancer, and live mice. They found significant differences in tumor properties between women and men with pancreatic cancer. As it turns out, women have a population of macrophages (immune cells) that express the FPR2 protein.

FPR2 interferes with the immune system’s T cells. This means that in women, macrophages effectively protect the tumor from the body’s immune response.

Researchers have shown that women with these immune cells have a very low survival rate for pancreatic cancer. Tests in mice also confirmed that blocking the FPR2 protein inhibited tumor growth in female mice. The discovery in the future may improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy in women.

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