NOVEMBER 28, 2023, NEW YORK – A type of fat found in meat and dairy products from grazing animals such as cows and sheep improves the ability of CD8+ T cells to infiltrate tumors and kill cancer cells, according to a new study led in part by Ludwig Chicago’s Chuan He. Published in Nature, the study also shows that patients with higher levels of this long-chain fatty acid—trans-vaccenic acid (TVA)—in the blood responded better to immunotherapy, suggesting that it could have potential as a nutritional supplement to complement immunotherapies for cancer.
For this study, the researchers assembled a “blood nutrient” compound library consisting of 255 bioactive molecules derived from nutrients and screened the compounds for their ability to influence anti-tumor immunity by activating CD8+ T cells, which kill cancerous and virally infected cells. TVA performed the best. Feeding mice a diet enriched with TVA significantly reduced the growth potential of melanoma and colon tumors compared to mice fed a control diet. The TVA diet also enhanced the ability of CD8+ T cells to infiltrate tumors.
The researchers discovered that TVA exerts its effects on T cells by inactivating a receptor on the cell surface called GPR43 and activating cellular signaling through the CREB pathway. Analyzing blood samples taken from patients undergoing CAR-T cell immunotherapy for lymphoma, the researchers also showed that those with higher levels of TVA tend to respond better to treatment than those with lower levels of the nutrient.
In addition to his membership of the Ludwig Center, He is the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago.
The University of Chicago news release from which this summary is derived can be accessed here.