Weapon against Tumours, Boost for the Immune System

Activating X-rays – Signalling Cascade in T-cells


Radiation therapy is a proven approach to destroying tumours. However, it is possible that it might be able to do even more in the future – namely stimulate the immune system at the same time and so fight cancer even more intensively. The foundations for this have been laid by researchers led by TU Darmstadt. They have found that x-rays trigger a calcium signalling cascade in cells of the immune system. The results have now been published in the “Journal of General Physiology”.

T-lymphocytes before (left) and after (right) the treatment with X-rays. Before radiation, the transcription factor NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T-cells) is mainly located in the cytosol (red fluorescence). After radiation, NFAT migrates into the cell nucleus (blue fluorescence) where it activates important genes for immune activation in the lymphocytes.

Ionising radiation is successfully used in cancer treatment to kill tumour cells. Over the past two decades, it has become clear that treatment success can be increased even further if the radiation treatment is combined with measures to stimulate the immune system. In this context, a new study being carried out with biologists from TU Darmstadt and the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research plus researchers from the clinics of the Frankfurt and Homburg universities is attracting attention.

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