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New cancer treatment developed at U of Texas uses enzymes to boost immune system and fight back

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new approach to treating cancer using enzyme therapy, the university announced.
The enzyme, PEG-KYNase, does not directly kill cancer cells but instead empowers the immune system to eradicate unwanted cells on its own, according to a university article.

PEG-KYNase is designed to degrade kynurenine, a metabolite produced by numerous tumors that suppresses the immune system. The UT team's findings were published in a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology.

A healthy, fully functioning immune system can combat the spread of cancer cells and eliminate tumors by itself. However, tumors have evolved in multiple ways to suppress the immune system, leading to the growth and metastasis of cancer cells.

“Our immune system constantly polices the body and normally recognizes and eliminates cancerous cells,” said Everett Stone, research assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences' Department of Molecular Biosciences and co-author of the study. “Kynurenine acts as a roadblock to immune cells that impedes normal surveillance; our drug removes this obstacle.”

The team, led by Stone and professor George Georgiou in the Cockrell School of Engineering, developed an enzyme therapy that stimulates a human immune system abnormally suppressed by cancer cells, unleashing the body's power to fight back against the disease. Georgiou is a BMES member.

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