London: Scientists have identified a new type of white blood cell which activates a killing immune response to an external source paving the way for better vaccine strategies to treat cancer.

Researchers in Newcastle and Singapore have identified a subset of dendrite cells that can generate a response to an external source of antigen, for example bacteria, vaccines and tumours.

Most cells can only present antigens from within themselves, and so only elicit an immune response if they are infected themselves.

The new human tissue dendritic cell is capable of presenting external antigen to activate T cells which eliminate cancerous or infected cells, a process termed 'cross-presentation'.

"These are the cells we need to be targeting for anti-cancer vaccines," Dr Muzlifah Haniffa, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Newcastle University said in a statement.

"Our discovery offers an accessible, easily targetable system which makes the most of the natural ability of the cell," Haniffa said.

The study was published in the journal Immunity.

(Agencies)

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