Here is a fantastic and important study from renowned American scientist Doug Hanahan from the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC)/Ludwig Institute in Lausanne.
First, some background: 1. Immunotherapy – therapies that train the immune system to attack tumors – have revolutionized oncology. Less clear, however, is why some patients respond better than others, and, similarly, why some patients who initially respond to these treatments subsequently stop responding, leading to relapse. 2. RNA-binding proteins are one of the most abundant classes of proteins encoded by the human genome, and many of them have been implicated in tumor development, yet we know little about them. What RNAs do they bind to and what is the effect of these proteins on their target RNA? Do they stabilize the RNAs? Destabilize them? Edit them? Enhance or inhibit their translation into proteins? In other words, when they are mutated or over-/under-expressed (ie over- or under-produced) in cancer, how exactly do they contribute to tumor biology?
The researchers discovered that a protein called Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP), (previously recognized to be important in the brain), was over-expressed in tumors and not only helped the tumors to grow by evading the immune system, but also regulated the response of the tumors to immunotherapy drugs. In addition, they discovered that FMRP is an RNA-binding protein that stabilizes several mRNAs that code for proteins that shield tumors from the immune system in myriad ways. Now, how do we turn this information into a new therapy?
Read this well-written story to learn more.