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Cancer immunotherapy has transformed the treatment landscape for various types of cancer. It has achieved this by harnessing the immune response in attacking tumors. Immunotherapies focusing on PD-1 or other checkpoint receptors have emerged as the preferred treatment alternative for numerous solid cancers. These checkpoint receptors restrict the ability of T cells to counter tumors. Unfortunately, including PD-1 inhibitors may lead to T cells targeting other tissues and cancer cells. This may result in different side effects.

Relation of PD-1 to immunotherapy

A new study sheds light on how PD-1 helps preserve healthy tissues. This information can assist scientists in taking preventive measures, making predictions, or treating the emerging side effects of PD-1 hindering immunotherapies. The author of the study says obstructing checkpoint receptors strengthens the immune response. However, immunotherapies impact healthy organs as well. The study author implies that this event shows how checkpoint receptors such as PD-1 protect these organs. Currently, physicians can’t tell which patients will likely encounter these side effects and the organs impacted by immunotherapy. Physicians can choose to do away with immunotherapy upon the emergence of side effects. An alternative is to opt for immunosuppressants for their patients, which bear adverse outcomes on immunotherapy anti-cancer effects.

Nikhil Joshi, the senior study author, says the study’s findings highlight how PD-1 is responsible for hindering T cells from targeting healthy tissues. He explains further that this could assist in finding alternatives for reducing immunotherapy side effects.  

Findings of the study

Martin Damo, a scientist taking part in the study, created mouse models to demonstrate the involvement of PD-1 in hindering T cells targeting healthy skin. By simply copying the immunotherapy and opting to obstruct PD-1, it was observed that the mice later showed skin disorders. This occurrence was a similar case observed in cancer patients who had encountered treatment centered on PD-1 blocking.

The observation drawn from the mice aligned with skin biopsies witnessed on cancer patients still in treatment at Smilow Cancer facility. Doctor Jonathan Leventhal directed the facility. Martin Damo, the scientist who created the mouse models, concluded that the information gathered from the patients and mice was enough to support the hypothesis. This hypothesis being PD-1 play their role as gatekeepers to prevent damage by T-cells.