June 21, 2016 – Privilege
Anchor lead: Does the brain respond uniquely to cancer? Elizabeth Tracey reports
Your brain is largely cut off from the rest of your body, behind something called the blood-brain barrier. As such it may not respond the way other body areas do to things like cancer treatment. Now research by Michael Lim, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, has also identified differences in brain immune function.
Lim: People have always said the brain is immunoprivileged, but we think that the immune system just works in a different way. One of the experiments that we just published is where we took melanoma cancer cells and in one set of mice implanted them in the brain and in another set of mice implanted them in the flank, or the back, and the tumors that were in the brain the lymphocytes or T cells or immune cells that would otherwise kill the cancer cells were being removed whereas in the flank those immune cells remained viable. :25
Lim says one promising area for research is to try to figure out how to activate the immune system in the brain, with some trials employing viruses to do so. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.