CD4+ T Cells Revealed as Powerful Cancer Killers

Researchers have unveiled groundbreaking insights into CD4+ T cells, a kind of immune cell, demonstrating the potential for immunotherapies targeting melanoma, the most fatal kind of skin cancer.

Image Credit: Juan Gaertner/

Image Credit: Juan Gaertner/

The researchers, led by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and detailed in a study published in Science Immunology, identified that CD4+ T cells, commonly referred to as "helper T cells" due to their role in assisting the activation of other immune cells, display significant efficacy in controlling melanoma.

Dr Emma Bawden, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Melbourne's Doherty Institute and the lead author of the study, stressed that this finding calls into question the generally held opinion on CD4+ T cell function in cancer immunity.

Our in-depth study, using animal models, unraveled the complex biology of CD4+ T cells in melanoma and how they control cancer. Using microscopic live imaging, we visualized the activities and interactions of CD4+ T cells with other cell types in the tumor microenvironment. Our findings challenge previous assumptions by showing that CD4+ T cells can combat tumors through a multitude of pathways.”

Dr Emma Bawden, Postdoctoral Researcher, Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne

Through detailed analysis, the researchers uncovered the genetic makeup, developmental states, and functions of CD4+ T cells in melanoma. This elucidation highlights the possibility of using CD4+ T cells to support upcoming treatments.

Professor Thomas Gebhardt, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Doherty Institute and the senior author of the study, stated that immunotherapies against melanoma may become more successful as a result of CD4+ T cell responses.

While CD4+ T cells are often viewed as accessory cells regulating the function of other immune cells, our work shows they can work effectively on their own. Therefore, harnessing their potential therapeutically holds great promise for the development and improvement of current cancer immunotherapies.”

Thomas Gebhardt, Senior Research Fellow, Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne

Melanoma, a rare yet highly aggressive form of skin cancer, afflicts more than 15,000 Australians annually.

CD4 T cells attacking melanoma cells microscope imaging

CD4+ T cells (green) attacking melanoma cells (red) in the skin. Time stamp represents h:min:s. Video Credit: Doherty Institute

Journal reference:

Bawden, E. G., et al. (2024) CD4+ T cell immunity against cutaneous melanoma encompasses multifaceted MHC II–dependent responses. Science Immunology.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
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