As per a study published on March 23 in Nature Medicine, Yale-led team has identified a promising new combination immunotherapy to enhance the body’s ability to fight chronic viral infections and possibly cancer.
Viruses that cause chronic infection, such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C, are able to persist in the body despite attack from T cells, the body’s main line of defense against pathogens. They persist because, over time, our T cells weaken to the point of ‘T-cell exhaustion.’ To circumvent this process, the research team—led by Susan Kaech, associate professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine—investigated two pathways that cause T cell suppression.
The first pathway is triggered by prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), a lipid known to suppress the immune system’s response to tumors. To explore the relationship between PGE2 and T cells, the research team studied mice with viral infections and observed that PGE2 levels increased, particularly during chronic infection. The enhanced PGE2 reduced both the number of T cells that attack the infected cells and their anti-viral functions.
One important implication of the study is the potential use of NSAIDs as adjunct therapy to treat patients with chronic infections and cancer.