Toll-like receptors 2 and 10 can detect when oncogenes have become active.
When a cell is about to become cancerous, it sends a signal to the immune system that it should be removed from the body. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh wanted to find away to use this process to detect precancerous cells and remove them before cancer ever develops.
Their work has led to the discovery of two immune molecules that might serve as markers for imminent cancer development.
Oncogenes are cancer-causing genes that, when activated, promote senescence. This process prevents damaged cells from growing uncontrollably, and the senescent cells are then killed by the immune system. It isn’t always effective, though, and the presence of senescent cells can lead to inflammation of surrounding tissue, which promotes the development of cancer.
The scientists determined that toll-like receptors (TLRs) 2 and 10, which detect viruses and bacteria, also detect when oncogenes have become active. This role in cancer detection was previously unknown and may provide insight into the mechanism of senescence and provide new opportunities for fighting cancer.
The researchers suggest that drugs that interfere with TLR2/10 signaling, which leads to inflammation and the development of cancer, may help the body clear pre-cancerous cells.