A surprising new study from Israel finds that malignant colorectal cancer cells can be eliminated with eosinophils — white blood cells that originate in bone marrow and may once have killed off intestinal parasites, but which today are responsible for chronic asthma and allergies.
The research, published in Cancer Immunology Research on January 21, was led by Prof. Ariel Munitz of the Tel Aviv University Sackler School of Medicine department of microbiology and clinical immunology and conducted by his doctoral student Hadar Reichman, in collaboration with colleagues in Tel Aviv Medical Center’s gastroenterology department.
“Eosinophils are white blood cells that secrete powerfully destructive proteins,” Munitz said. “They may have played an evolutionary role in combating parasites. But now that most people, particularly in the West, enjoy good hygiene and few parasites, the eosinophils have become destructive agents, causing allergies and asthma.
“Our new research theorized that since eosinophils are capable of killing parasites and can cause damage in the lungs of asthma patients, they might play a role in cancer treatment and would be able to kill tumor cells.”
The largest eosinophil reservoir is situated in the digestive system, so the researchers initially decided to test their theories on colorectal cancer. In the first stage of research, they selected samples from tumors of 275 patients to determine the number of eosinophils in a tumor as compared with the stage and severity of the disease.
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