May 16

Researchers in Israel have, for the first time, developed a way of directly measuring how cancer cells that attack the body interact with the immune cells that defend it.

By applying advanced scanning techniques to a patient’s cell or tissue sample from a standard biopsy, they can gain additional insights that will help tailor personalized treatment plans.

The breakthrough, made by a team at Bar-Ilan University (BIU), allows clinicians to better understand the complex interplay between cancer cells and immune cells. As a result, they will be able to offer cancer patients more effective immunotherapy treatment.

“Cancer cells have the ability to manipulate immune cells, evading the body’s natural defenses. By quantifying the molecular changes that occur when immune cells encounter cancer cells, we gain a deeper understanding of this complex interplay,” said Dr. Shahar Alon, lead researcher at BIU’s Faculty of Engineering.

The research team, led by student researchers Michal Danino and Tal Goldberg, found that specific types of immune cells exhibit distinct genetic signatures when near cancerous tissue.

Their approach to sequencing biopsies now offers a powerful tool for identifying the genes that are involved in the immune response to cancer. By assessing the degree to which the immune system is activated in individual patients, clinicians will be able make more informed decisions about immunotherapy treatments, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

The team’s research was funded by the Israel Cancer Association, the Israel National Science Foundation and the Sheba/Bar-Ilan grant (a collaborative research initiative between Sheba Medical Center and Bar-Ilan).

Moshe Bar Haim, CEO of the Israel Cancer Association, noted the importance of medical breakthroughs such as this.

“This new understanding of the immune system’s response to cancer cells holds promise for more effective treatments and higher recovery rates,” he said.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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