Winship Study Reveals how Immune System can Control Cancer

Dec 18, 2019 | Cancer, Immunotherapy, Oncology, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Study Reveals how Immune System can Control Cancer

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University recently completed a study assessing whether immune cells were present in tumor samples removed from patients with kidney and urologic cancers. The team discovered that in patients where the immune system had effectively infiltrated the tumor, they experienced a longer time without the progression of their cancers after surgery.

Public recently in Nature, this study possibly helps doctors expand and better target the use of immunotherapy, which has been found to have dramatic results in some patients. Although the Georgia-based team focused on kidney and other urologic cancers, they believe the results could apply more broadly to other types of cancers.

The Science

The team discovered that the immune system establishes “forward operating bases” or lymph node-like structures, inside the tumors of some patients. Those with well-supported immune outposts in their tumors had a higher probability to control their cancers’ growth for a longer period of time.

Important Implications

The findings of this study represent notable considerations—for example, additional treatments aren’t necessarily performed unless there is kidney cancer. The findings point to the conclusion that if the patient has many more T cells in a tumor, their response to cancer immunotherapy will likely increase.


·         National Cancer Institute

·         The Prostate Cancer Foundation

·         Swim Across America

·         The James M Cox Foundation

·         James C. Kennedy

·         Dunwoody Country Club Senior Men’s Association

·         Educational grant from Adaptive Technologies

Lead Research/Investigator

Viraj Master, MD, Fray F. Marshall chair and professor of urology at Emory University School of Medicine

Haydn Kissick, PhD, assistant professor of urology and microbiology and immunology, Emory University School of Medicine

Call to Action: Howard Soule, PhD, executive vice president and chief science officer for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, who supported the study, noted, “This study may lead to new insights into why immunotherapy can be so effective in some cancer types, but rarely works in others, such as prostate cancer, and may highlight a path forward for developing more effective immunotherapy treatments.”