Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Researchers at the Kennedy Institute demonstrate that the drug decitabine can boost regulatory T cell responses.

T cell © Shutterstock

A study by Dr I-Shu Huang and colleagues in Professor Richard Williams’s Group published in PNAS shows that decitabine, a drug currently approved for treatment of cancer patients, can boost regulatory T cells in animal models. As robust regulatory T cells have the capacity to suppress immune-driven inflammation, the findings offer a treatment pathway for chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

Richard said: “RA is characterised by a deficit in fully functional regulatory T cells. But there is evidence that DNA-methylation inhibitors, used for treatment of cancer, increase regulatory T cell responses in patients. This led us to question whether short-term treatment of autoimmune arthritis with DNA methylation inhibitors could restore numbers of regulatory T cells, leading to long-term suppression of disease."  

Of three DNA methylation inhibitors tested in an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis, decitabine was the most effective, producing a sustained therapeutic effect. The researchers observed a profound and rapid decrease in numbers of pathogenic Th1 and Th17 cells in decitabine treated mice and an increase in numbers of regulatory T cells, particularly in the inflamed joint. 

“This study identifies a path toward resetting tolerance in autoimmune disease using a repurposed drug,” said Richard. “However, decitabine acts in a non-specific way and therefore is likely to have many off-target effects when used in a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Further research would aim to identify more selective epigenetic drugs to restore immune homeostasis.” 

Similar stories

Matthew Costa elected Fellow of Academy of Medical Sciences

Matthew Costa, Professor of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery at NDORMS, has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

COVID-19’s high blood clot risk

A recent study of patient health records found that around 1 in 100 people with COVID-19 had a venal or arterial thrombosis, with rates higher still among males, and particularly for those hospitalised.

REF 2021 results for medical research in Oxford

Today the UK Funding Bodies have published the outcomes of the recent national research assessment exercise, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

Nurses' Day 2022

Today marks Nurses' Day 2022. This year's theme is #BestofNursing, so we chatted to some of our amazing Research Nurses about what the Best of Nursing means to them.

Rethinking pain management after injury

NDORMS researchers are to study whether a pain management treatment using cognitive behavioural therapy will improve recovery for people who have had a major leg injury.

Breakthrough in treatment for Dupuytren’s disease

Injection of the anti-TNF drug adalimumab into Dupuytren’s disease nodules is effective in reducing nodule hardness and nodule size.