Asthma is a chronic lung disease that is painful and inconvenient. People with the illness suffer from inflamed airways which become narrow, making it difficult to breathe, talk, and be active. Despite these downsides, sufferers may have just caught a lucky break, with a new study linking people with asthma to a lower risk of developing a brain tumor.
This observation linking inflammatory diseases and decreased risk of brain tumor growth was first noticed 15 years ago, but until now the reason for the association has been a mystery. A research group from Washington University School of Medicine cracked the case, realizing T cells, a type of immune cell, were responsible. Over activation of these cells triggers lung and airway inflammation, though prevents the growth of brain tumors.
This interesting new discovery, published in Nature Communications, could have enormous impacts on the future of tumor treatment. It is possible scientists may be able to reprogram T cells in these patients to act more like the ones for people with asthma.
“Of course, we’re not going to start inducing asthma in anyone; asthma can be a lethal disease. But what if we could trick the T cells into thinking they’re asthma T cells when they enter the brain, so they no longer support brain tumor formation and growth? These findings open the door to new kinds of therapies targeting T cells and their interactions with cells in the brain,” said David H. Gutmann, senior author of the study.
Further research in mice and humans studying this phenomenon is being carried out by the group. Gutmann continued: “As we understand this communication between T cells and the cells that promote brain tumors better, we’ll start finding more opportunities to develop clever therapeutics to intervene in the process.”
Source study: Nature Communications – Asthma reduces glioma formation by T cell decorin-mediated inhibition of microglia