Medical Xpress:  Cancers are not only made of tumor cells. In fact, as they grow, they develop an entire cellular ecosystem within and around them. This “tumor microenvironment” is made up of multiple cell types, including cells of the immune system, like T lymphocytes and neutrophils. The tumor microenvironment has predictably drawn a lot of interest from cancer researchers, who are constantly searching for potential therapeutic targets. When it comes to the immune cells, most research focuses on T lymphocytes, which have become primary targets of cancer immunotherapy—a cancer therapy that turns the patient’s own immune system against the tumor. But there is another type of immune cell in the tumor microenvironment whose importance in cancer development has been overlooked: neutrophils, which form part of the body’s immediate or “innate” immune response to microbes. The question, currently debated among scientists, is whether neutrophils help or inhibit the tumor’s growth.  Now, a team of researchers led by Etienne Meylan at EPFL’s School of Life Sciences has discovered that the metabolism of neutrophils determines their tumor-supportive behavior in lung cancer development. The study is published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
What intrigued the scientists was that cell metabolism in cancer becomes deregulated. Being neutrophil specialists, they considered the possibility that when these cells reside within the tumor microenvironment, their metabolism may also change, and that could affect how they contribute to the cancer’s growth.