TAMPA, Fla. — Immunotherapies have improved outcomes of many patients with cancer, including melanoma. But these therapies work for only a subset of patients. Numerous studies are looking at improving responses, including research focusing on enhancing tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). TILs are immune cells in tumors that can recognize and attack the cancer cells but often there aren’t enough of them or they’re unable to harness a strong enough response to durably suppress tumor growth and spread.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers, led by cancer biologist Eric Lau, Ph.D., have identified a relatively natural way to increase the numbers and antitumor activities of TILs. In a new article published in Nature Cancer, Lau’s team demonstrates how L-fucose, a nontoxic dietary plant sugar that is enriched in red and brown seaweeds, can increase TILs, promote antitumor immunity and improve the efficacy of immunotherapy.
The sugar molecule L-fucose, while found in foods, can also be made within our own cells through the breakdown and conversion of other molecules. It is important for immune and developmental processes, and abnormalities with L-fucose synthesis and usage are associated with diseases including cancer.