Daniel Chan of the University of Colorado has found that a whole family of genes normally detected only in human immune defense cells become progressively and highly up-regulated in human cancer cells isolated from primary tumors (tumors found at site of implantation in left lung of animals), metastases (right lung) and distant metastases (mediastinal lymph nodes, liver, adrenal glands, kidneys, pancreas and lumbar lymph nodes). The expression of these genes is found to be very low or not expressed at all when cells have been maintained in tissue culture in vitro. Researchers found that expression of KIR, either by in vivo immune-selection or by forced expression, is responsible for conferring immune-resistance against cytolytic killing of human lung cancer cells. This suggests that determining the level of KIR in a patient will provide a novel method of evaluating prognosis of cancer and a means of monitoring treatment. It has also been discovered that the immune resistance caused by the over expressed gene family can be reversed by treatment with anti-KIR antibodies, suggesting that anti-KIR antibodies have clinical potential for the treatment of aggressive and immune resistant cells.
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