Enhancing Immune Defenses: Nutrient Present in Meat and Dairy Enhances Cancer-Fighting Abilities

by Tatsuya Nakamura
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Cancer Immunotherapy

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A recent study conducted at the University of Chicago has uncovered the potential of trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), a component found in meat and dairy products, to bolster the effectiveness of CD8+ T cells in combating cancer. Elevated levels of TVA are linked to improved responses to immunotherapy, indicating its viability as a supplementary approach to cancer treatment.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have made a significant discovery concerning trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), a long-chain fatty acid abundant in beef, lamb, and dairy items sourced from grazing animals like cows and sheep. Their study has revealed that TVA can enhance the capacity of CD8+ T cells to infiltrate tumors and eliminate cancer cells.

Published in the journal Nature on November 22, this research also demonstrates that individuals with higher concentrations of TVA in their bloodstream exhibited more favorable responses to immunotherapy. This suggests the potential of TVA as a dietary supplement to complement conventional cancer treatments.

Dr. Jing Chen, the Janet Davison Rowley Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine at UChicago and one of the senior authors of the study, emphasized the significance of exploring how specific nutrients impact human health. In this case, the focus is on nutrients that activate T cell responses, ultimately enhancing anti-tumor immunity through a precise immune pathway.

The study’s methodology involved creating a library of 255 bioactive molecules derived from nutrients, which were then screened to identify compounds capable of activating CD8+ T cells and influencing anti-tumor immunity. Among these candidates, TVA demonstrated the most promising results. Interestingly, while TVA is primarily found in human milk and not produced by the body itself, approximately 80% of it circulates in the bloodstream, suggesting its involvement in other essential processes.

Further experiments involved testing the effects of a TVA-enriched diet on mice with various types of tumors, revealing a notable reduction in tumor growth in melanoma and colon cancer cases compared to control diets. Additionally, CD8+ T cells exhibited enhanced tumor infiltration in mice on the TVA diet.

The research also delved into the molecular mechanisms at play, with TVA’s impact on the GPR43 receptor and the activation of the CREB pathway being key findings. Removing the GPR43 receptor exclusively from CD8+ T cells resulted in the loss of their improved tumor-fighting ability.

In collaboration with Dr. Justin Kline, MD, Professor of Medicine at UChicago, the study extended its scope to patients undergoing CAR-T cell immunotherapy treatment for lymphoma. Those with higher levels of TVA in their blood tended to respond better to the treatment. Furthermore, TVA was found to enhance the effectiveness of an immunotherapy drug against leukemia cells.

While the study underscores the potential of TVA as a dietary supplement for T cell-based cancer treatments, Dr. Chen cautions against interpreting it as an endorsement for increased consumption of red meat and dairy. Rather, it highlights the prospect of nutrient supplements like TVA in promoting T cell activity. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that other fatty acids from plant sources may also activate similar pathways, opening up avenues for further exploration.

In summary, this research signifies a metabolomic approach to understanding how dietary components impact immunity and overall health. Dr. Chen’s team aims to build a comprehensive library of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream to uncover their broader implications in biological processes, including aging. The remarkable specificity of TVA’s effects on immune cells presents intriguing possibilities for future applications in cancer treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cancer Immunotherapy

What is trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) and where is it found?

Trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) is a long-chain fatty acid found in meat and dairy products, particularly those sourced from grazing animals like cows and sheep.

How does TVA affect the immune system’s response to cancer?

TVA has been found to enhance the ability of CD8+ T cells to infiltrate tumors and kill cancer cells. This improves the immune system’s capacity to combat cancer.

What was the key discovery in the University of Chicago’s research?

The research showed that individuals with higher levels of TVA in their bloodstream responded better to immunotherapy, indicating TVA’s potential as a supplementary cancer treatment.

Can TVA be obtained from sources other than animal products?

TVA is primarily found in animal-derived products like beef, lamb, and dairy. However, the study suggests that there may be other nutrients in plant sources with similar effects.

Is increasing meat and dairy consumption recommended based on this study?

No, the study does not endorse increasing meat and dairy consumption. Instead, it highlights the potential of nutrient supplements like TVA to promote T cell activity in cancer treatment.

What are the broader implications of this research?

The research represents a metabolomic approach to understanding how dietary components impact immunity and health. It opens avenues for further exploration of nutrient supplements’ roles in cancer treatment and other biological processes.

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1 comment

ScienceNerd42 November 24, 2023 - 7:11 pm

Interstin reseach, TVA seem powerfull for imune systm! But dont overdo meat and dairy, balance is key.


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