In order for cancer cells to successfully spread and multiply, they must find a way to avoid the body's immune system. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have recently published an explanation for how this occurs with chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). The CLL cells cause an inflammatory reaction and influence other blood cells with it so much, that the immune system is suppressed. The cells send out messages via exosomes, little subcellular vesicles, that the cells transmit to their surroundings. The new discovery by the DKFZ scientists paves the way for new therapy approaches. Tumor cells influence their environment in order to avoid an immune response and to facilitate favorable conditions for growth. It has been known for a long time that solid tumors, those that grow as solid tissue inside an organ, manipulate macrophages, the “big eater” cells of the immune system, for their own purposes. "Recently, we have seen more and more evidence that something similar must be happening in leukemia,” says Dr. Martina Seiffert of the DKFZ in Heidelberg. So, leukemia cells, acquired by the patient through CLL, could only survive in a culture cell if it also contains macrophages or monocytes, the precursors of the “big eaters.” They serve as a form of nourishment for cancer cells.
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