Dairy and Beef Nutrients Boost Cancer Immune Cell Responses

Recent research suggests that a fatty acid in meat and dairy products increases the activity of T-cells that fight cancer.

Additionally, the University of Chicago study, published in Nature, raises the possibility of using trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) as a dietary supplement to support cancer treatments.

The relationships between our diets and our health are complicated, and understanding them requires considering several factors, including the astounding diversity of foods available.

A vitamin may strengthen the immune system's defense against cancer, according to a recent study from the University of Chicago by Dr. Jing Chen.

Chen focuses on examining the potential effects of blood molecules, such as metabolites and nutrients, on the initiation and progression of cancer.

We thought that, after millions of years of human evolution, circulating nutrients must be vital to human physiology and pathologic responses like immune system response.


The group decided to investigate this issue thoroughly by assembling a unique chemical library and doing tests to find nutrients that could strengthen anti-tumor immunity.

Approximately 700 food-derived metabolites made up the initial database used in Chen's research, which was eventually reduced to 255 bioactive molecules to establish a blood nutrient library.

The top six candidates were moved on to the next round after these compounds underwent an in vitro screening to see which ones might stimulate CD8+ T cell responses against lung cancer cells.

The most common component identified by screens employing human and mouse cells was TVA, a naturally occurring fatty acid present in dairy, meat, and lamb. Crucially, the human body is unable to create TVA on its own.

Less than 20% of TVA in humans and mice is converted to byproducts like rumenic acid, indicating that it may have other functions.

They found that TVA binds to a receptor known as GPR43 to activate T cells. This initiates the cell growth and survival-promoting CREB cell signaling pathway. Remarkably, CD8+ T cells with the GPR43 receptor removed showed reduced anti-tumor efficacy in mice.

According to Chen, TVA has much translational potential as a naturally occurring food component and may be employed as a dietary component or a therapy supplement in therapeutic techniques to improve clinical results.

For instance, a combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors and TVA may be tried for better immunotherapies to treat cancer patients.

TVA can be used with certain T-cell engagers to treat patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) or with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to treat cancer patients more effectively.

According to the study, certain dietary supplements, like TVA, may increase T-cell activity and improve cancer therapies that rely on T cells.

Chen says the team's research on mice models shows how TVA improves CD8+ T-cell performance to have an anti-tumor effect.

In light of this, future clinical trials utilizing TVA as an adjuvant therapy for T cell-based immunotherapies are warranted.

Only a few hundred food-derived metabolites remain in the bloodstream after millions of years of evolution, suggesting they may play some role in human biology.

The team concludes that it is astounding that a single vitamin, such as TVA, can have a focused mechanism on a specific type of immune cell and elicit such a profound physiological reaction across the entire organism.

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