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Discovery & Development Small Molecules

Canceling Cancer’s Collaborators

Some tumors – known as “cold tumors” – do not respond well to checkpoint inhibitors. To find out why, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined a variety of tumors and found heavy expression of Sb9, which, in normal immune cells, acts as a shield against the cell’s own destructive enzymes (GrB).

The team then used CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer tumors that lack Sb9 – and found that those tumors grew at a slower rate in mice. They also observed Sb9 expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts and immunosuppressive cells surrounding the tumor, which promote cancer growth by weakening anti-cancer immune responses. When the engineered tumors were grown in Sb9-deficient mice, tumor growth was even slower.

As a result of these observations, the team developed a small-molecule Sb9 inhibitor, which proved effective in suppressing several murine models of solid tumors (1).

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  1. LJ Jiang, Cell, 183, 5, 1219 (2020). Available at:

About the Author

James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.

From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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