Cancer therapy: immune cells need magnesium
Magnesium is important for the immune system so that it can fight pathogens and cancer cells. In the specialist journal Cell, researchers explain why certain immune cells, the T cells, need a sufficient amount of magnesium for this purpose.
On a low-magnesium diet, test animals have poorer immune defenses against influenza viruses, and cancer cells spread faster. The reason for this has now been elucidated: Magnesium is important so that a docking point on T cells can recognize infected or diseased cells because it keeps this “antenna” in an active state. If there is too little magnesium, it “bends” and cannot perform its function.
This observation could play a role in the use of modern cancer immunotherapies that mobilize the immune system and specifically T cells to fight cancer cells. In experiments, the researchers were able to show that the immune response of T cells against cancer cells is enhanced when the amount of magnesium in the tumors is increased. Researchers know from studies on cancer patients that have already been completed that immunotherapies are less effective in patients with a magnesium deficiency. The research team is now looking for ways to specifically increase the magnesium concentration in tumors. However, it has not yet been clarified whether regular intake of magnesium has an effect on the risk of cancer.
dr Jonas Lötscher from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel explains the further project: “As a next step, we are planning prospective studies to test the clinical effect of magnesium as a catalyst for the immune system.”