It has been reported the fact that cancer patients who have mutated mitochondria are responding better to treatment. Check out the latest reports about this below.
Cancer patients and treatments
A recent study published in Nature Cancer has revealed that almost half of all cancer patients have mitochondria with DNA mutations. These mutations are found to be beneficial for the patients as they help in responding better to immunotherapy treatment.
The study suggests that when mitochondria are defective, immunotherapy can be significantly more effective. This discovery has opened up new possibilities for cancer treatment outcomes.
“We found that tumours which have the most mutated mitochondrial DNA are far more sensitive to immunotherapy,” said Payam Gammage, co-lead author of the study and group leader at the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute, in a press release.
Mitochondria are specialized compartments found within the cells of the body.
They are responsible for storing energy and converting food molecules into a form of cellular energy known as ATP. Mitochondria are unique in their ability to fuse and divide, forming a web-like network that can meet the high-energy demands of the body’s organs.
Mitochondria also contain their own genetic material called mitochondrial DNA. It is more common than people realize for this DNA to experience mutations, with research suggesting that approximately 50% of mitochondrial DNA mutations occur. This makes it one of the most mutated areas of the cancer genome.
Mutations in mitochondrial DNA can lead to various dysfunctions in the body, such as neurogenerative disorders, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer.
Although mitochondrial DNA mutations are common in cancer, their role in the development of cancer is not fully understood by scientists yet. In a recent study, Mr. Gammage and his team have shown a connection between mitochondrial DNA mutations and a patient’s response to the immunotherapy drug nivolumab.
Patients with high levels of mitochondrial DNA mutations in their cancer tumors were up to two and a half times more likely to respond positively to the drug. Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapies stimulate the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Nivolumab binds to a protein on the surface of T cells to prevent cancer cells from suppressing the immune system. It is a standard treatment for patients with melanoma and lung, esophageal, and bowel cancers.
To determine the effects of mitochondrial DNA mutations on treatments, the research team injected mice with mutated mitochondrial DNA and administered a dose of immunotherapy twice weekly for up to three weeks, according to the reports.
“For the first time, we can see exactly what mitochondrial DNA mutations do when we create them in the lab,” said Ed Reznik, co-lead author of the study and computational oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in the press release.
“But what took us by surprise is how much the cells around the tumour are affected—which we can exploit to make the tumor vulnerable to treatment.”