Could autoimmune disease have an upside? As strange as it sounds, it may be the case as scientists discover that certain overactive immune cells could be repurposed to help fight cancer.

The cells, discovered in 2005, are called Th17; they're thought to trigger inflammation and tissue injury associated with autoimmune diseases, but scientists at Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center testing an assumed link between Th17 and cancer discovered exactly the opposite of what they expected. Instead of promoting the growth of cancer within a body - as inflammation tends to do - Th17 appeared to restrict it. This discovery opens the door to a potential new treatment for cancer victims, according to MD Anderson's Chen Dong:

While there is much work to be done, these findings imply the possibility of taking a patient's Th17 cells, expanding them in the lab and then reinfusing them as a treatment.

Autoimmune disease cells harnessed to fight cancer [New Scientist]