Notre Dame scientists study the brain’s immune system

Notre Dame researchers recently published a report that details the results of a study involving the brain’s immune environment. Scientists believe that the brain suppresses an aggressive immune response to protect against inflammation. However, that suppression opens the door to metastasizing cancer cells.

The researchers demonstrated that a particular type of cell, a myeloid cell, is responsible for suppressing the immune response, allowing breast cancer cells to metastasize and form secondary tumor cells in the brain. One kind of myeloid cell, microglia, releases a protein called VISTA, which protects against brain inflammation. Unfortunately, it also suppresses the T-cells that would otherwise be inhibiting the spread of cancer.

Antibodies have been developed to block VISTA, but considerable research and testing needs to be done to ensure the safety and effectiveness of that approach in combating brain metastases.