Kupffer Cells Guard The Liver Against Metastatic Cancer

Activating the fungal receptor Dectin-2 makes Kupffer cells ‘eat’ cancerous cells, thereby reducing the spread of cancer to the liver.

AsianScientist (Dec. 22, 2016) – Fungal receptors double up as cancer suppressors, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. These findings suggest that triggering phagocytosis could help treat cancer.

Metastasis, the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another, is a major cause of mortality in cancer patients. Among various types of metastasis, the spread of disease to the liver is common among many kinds of cancer and often has a poor prognosis. The immune system plays a critical role in stemming liver metastasis, but the mechanism by which it does so is largely unknown.

Using mice lacking the Dectin-2 receptor, a research group led by Project Researcher Yoshitaka Kimura and Professor Tadatsugu Taniguchi at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science revealed that the innate immune system is involved in suppressing cancer development in the liver.

The researchers found that Dectin-2, a cell surface protein involved in the recognition of fungal pathogens, promotes the engulfment of cancer cells in the liver by what are known as Kupffer cells. Interestingly, this immune response was not observed in mice with tumor growth under the skin or lung metastasis, indicating that the immune response is triggered selectively in the liver. Moreover, the group found that MCL, a receptor known to bind with Dectin-2, works synergistically with Dectin-2 to suppress liver metastasis.

“Dectin-2 is well-known for the key role it plays in protecting against disease-causing agents such as the Candida fungus,” says Taniguchi. He continues, “I found it very intriguing that the protein serves an important function in eliminating cancer cells, as well.”

The current study was carried out in collaboration with Chiba University Associate Professor Shinobu Saijo, Kyushu University Professor Sho Yamasaki, and Tokyo University of Science Professor Yoichiro Iwakura.

The article can be found at: Kimura et al. (2016) The Innate Immune Receptor Dectin-2 Mediates the Phagocytosis of Cancer Cells by Kupffer Cells for the Suppression of Liver Metastasis.


Source: University of Tokyo.
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