is that the spread of cancer cells can be markedly reduced by targeting the biochemical activity of a class of receptors called TAM receptors.
The finding came from studying natural killer cells, a type of blood cell that can induce the death of cancer cells.
Co-author, Research Professor Wally Langdon from The University of Western Australia School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine said it was found that mice without healthy versions of another protein called Cbl-b, had natural killer cells that had a heightened ability to prevent the spread of cancer cells.
"It was then discovered that the Cbl-b protein regulates the activity of TAM receptors, and therefore the anti-cancer effect seen in Cbl-b mutant mice might be mediated through its effects on TAM receptors," Professor Langdon said.
To test this possibility the team developed a new drug, a highly selective TAM inhibitor that blocked the receptors. It was found that treating mice with the TAM inhibitor resulted in a significant reduction in the spread of melanoma and breast cancer cells.
"These finding reveal that a drug such as the TAM inhibitor can awaken the immune system's ability to kill spreading cancer cells, therefore providing an additional approach to enhance cancer treatment," Professor Langdon said.