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Granulocytes determine cancer potential

(NaturalNews) Researchers have discovered that immune cells known as granulocytes play a significant role in determining a person's resistance to cancer.

Scientists have known for some time that the immune system's NK cells can identify and eliminate tumor cells, but the population of NK cells in the body is very low compared to the population of granulocytes.

Researchers from Wake Forest University of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. tested the effectiveness of granulocytes by collecting the cells from blood samples of more than 100 people. They then added these cells to cultures of cervical cancer cells.

They found that the effectiveness of granulocytes varied widely from person to person, and also that it tended to vary over time for each individual. Within 24 hours, for example, the granulocytes from one person killed 97 percent of the cervical cancer cells in a sample, while the granulocytes from another killed only 2 percent. The researchers found that granulocytes were less effective in those over the age of 50, and significantly hampered in people who had cancer. Stress also reduced the cells' effectiveness, and their cancer-fighting potential fell further during winter months.

"Nobody seems to have any cancer-killing ability during the winter months from November to April," lead researcher Zheng Cui said.

The study was presented in September 2007 at the Strategies for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, England.

Cui and colleagues are proceeding with research to see if it is possible to transfer the cancer-fighting ability of granulocytes from one person to another, so that cells from people with higher inherent cancer resistance could be injected into cancer patients.

Granulocyte injections have already been successfully used to boost general immune function in chemotherapy patients. In addition, a study by Cui and colleagues found that mice suffering from cancer could be successfully treated with injections of granulocytes from mice that were totally resistant to that cancer.

Sources for this story include: technology.newscientist.com.

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