A NEW microscopic study will explore how proteins move within cancer killing cells.

The Centre for Cancer Immunology, based at the University of Southampton, was awarded £2.7m for the new study in fight against cancer.

A new research programme led by scientists will give an important insight into our immune system and the fight against cancer.

The new study will be led by Professors Sally Ward and Raimund Ober and funded with a £2.7m grant from the Wellcome Trust.

It aims to analyse how antigens, a protein from foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses, but also possibly from cancer cells, bound to immune system proteins called antibodies, travel within the macrophage, a cell responsible for detecting, engulfing and destroying pathogens.

Professor Ward said: “Antigen presenting cells such as macrophages form a key part of the immune system due to their ability to transmit information to cells such as T cells about the components of the body, including cancers.

“But we need to understand this process in more depth to enable us to use it to fight cancer.

“We will use the information gained from this study to design molecular approaches to improve the immune response against tumours during immunotherapy.”

Professor Ober added: “We have developed microscopy techniques that allow proteins to be tracked in real-time at unprecedented resolution so that even individual molecules can be tracked as they move within a cell such as a macrophage.

“We are extremely grateful to the Wellcome Trust for this grant that will enable us to study this important area.”

The overall goal is to understand how these proteins behave in macrophages, by moving information to other immune cells.

Professors Ward and Ober joined the Centre for Cancer Immunology, University of Southampton, from Texas AM University last year and will be heading up a joint multidisciplinary laboratory.

The University of Southampton’s international reputation for translational research was one of the major attractions for them when deciding to return to the UK.