Cancer-killing cells that are often outdone by tumours have been given strong helping hand thanks to gene editing.
Scientists proved they were able to reduce tumour cells' power to suppress our immune system by disabling a type of cell-to-cell communication that takes place.
Like humans, cells also need a communication system to work and this often includes a protein from one cell communicating with a receptor on another cell.
Think of the protein as a key that matches to a lock opening up the opportunity for the cells to talk to each other.
Researchers at the University College of London (UCL) Cancer Institute were targeting a protein known as PD-1, associated with inhibiting our immune system.
The team essentially engineered an enzyme, essentially biological scissors, to cut the instruction manual (DNA) responsible for one aspect of this cell-to-cell communication.
First, co-author of the study Sergio Quezada, and his team extracted T cells, which play a vital role in immunity, from mice with melanoma tumors.
They then inserted the enzyme and found that these T cells were able to keep up the fight at the tumour site.
"Whilst the modified T cells are very active in a petri dish, once they reach the tumour microenvironment, the tumour often defends itself by expressing immune-regulatory mediators able to silence the activity of the T cells," Quezada said.
Describing the findings that are yet to be replicated in a human trial Quezada said: "These are promising results but there is still a long way to go."