NEW YORK, Oct. 17, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Targeted therapies specifically attach to and hinder cancer-causing proteins, but cancer cells can quickly evolve to thwart their action. A second drug class, immunotherapies, harnesses the immune system to attack cancer cells, but these agents often cannot “see” the disease-causing changes happening inside cancer cells, which look normal from the outside.
Now, a new study led by researchers from the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health describes a strategy to overcome these limitations based on several insights. First, the research team recognized that certain targeted drugs called “covalent inhibitors” form stable attachments with the disease-related proteins they target inside cancer cells. They also knew that proteins once inside cells are naturally broken down and presented as small pieces (peptides) on cell surfaces by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Once bound to MHC, peptides are recognized as foreign by the immune “surveillance” system if they are sufficiently different from the body’s naturally occurring proteins.