When faced with long-lasting challenges, such as cancer or persistent infections that the immune system struggles to clear, T cells of the adaptive immune system can become exhausted. The exhausted cells lose function, diminishing both the immediate immune response and the ability to form immune memory that will enable a robust future response to the same threat. Researchers see this in the engineered T cells used in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies, and there is thus a strong incentive to find ways to address the issue by identifying important causes or regulators of T cell exhaustion, and interfering to prevent it.
Fighting a tumor is a marathon, not a sprint. For cancer-fighting T cells, the race is sometimes just too long, and the T cells quit fighting. Researchers even have a name for this phenomenon: T cell exhaustion. Researchers now report that T cells can be engineered to clear tumors without succumbing to T cell exhaustion. This research builds on work that has shown the key role of proteins called transcription factors in the cellular pathway that triggers T cell exhaustion. This work is
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