Immunotherapy may aid ovarian cancer chemotherapy resistance, study suggests

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers among American women, in part because the cancer develops a resistance to chemotherapy. In a new study, researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor suggest that adding immunotherapy to chemotherapy may reverse chemotherapy resistance.

Typically, ovarian cancer is treated with cisplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy. The platinum builds up in the nucleus of cancer cells and stops them from dividing, resulting in resistance to the treatment and survival of the cancer cells, Medical News Today reported.

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In their research, scientists used fibroblasts, which generate cell connective tissue, and immune T cells that are the workhorse of the immune system. They observed that fibroblasts aid platinum build-up, but adding immune T cells to the fibroblasts led to death of tumor cells.

Researchers then looked at patient outcomes and found that the presence of stromal fibroblasts was linked to lower patient survival, while the presence of immune T cells was linked to higher patient survival, Medical News Today reported.

Study authors believe this interplay between chemotherapy and immunotherapy “holds high potential for cancer treatment,” suggesting that a patient can be treated with immune T cells to alter fibroblast behavior after chemoresistance occurs. The patient could then return the same chemotherapy they had initially become resistant to.

The study was published in the journal Cell.