Why Killer T Cells Lose Energy Inside of Solid Tumors

Certain T cells are often called “assassins” or “killers” because they can orchestrate and carry out missions to hunt down bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells throughout the body. Mighty as they may be, recent research has shown that once T cells infiltrate the environment of a solid tumor, they lose the energy needed to combat the cancer. A research team led by Jessica Thaxton, PhD, MsCR, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology And Co-Leader of the Cancer Cell Biology Program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, aimed to understand why T cells do not sustain energy in tumors. Using their expertise in tumor immunity and metabolism, the Thaxton Lab, led by the Katie Hurst, MPH, and 4th year graduate student Ellie Hunt, found that a metabolic enzyme called acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) causes T cells to store fat rather than burning fat for energy.

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