Coaxing cancer to defect
The immune system has a hard time attacking tumors because malignant cells do not express potent antigens that could elicit a strong immune response. Whereas most cancer vaccine strategies attempt to boost the body's response against weak antigens, a group from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is taking a different tack by coaxing tumors to present previously unexpressed, tumor-specific antigens following inhibition of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay in cancer cells.1
The challenges will be to specifically target tumor cells and not normal cells in order to avoid autoimmunity and to develop stable reagents for clinical use.
Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a highly conserved surveillance mechanism that prevents the expression of defective mRNAs and thus the accumulation of mutated or otherwise aberrant proteins in cells.2 Although tumors have a lot of mutations, the NMD process