The immune system is the body first line of defense against most diseases and unnatural invaders. But unlike these other invaders, the enemy in cancer is our own cells. These cells, through subtle alterations, become immortal malignant cells but are often not changed enough to elicit an immune reaction. Understanding how the immune system works or does not work against cancer is a primary focus of Cancer Immunology investigators. The program is focused on three major areas: the basic mechanisms of cancer immunity, engineering immune-based therapies, and developing clinical trials to study these new therapies. Researchers have uncovered genetic links to infection caused inflammation that can lead to cancer, deciphered the way cells regulate immune responses, and how tumors slip under the radar. Among the most significant accomplishments is the development of therapeutic vaccines for cancer. Based on new research that has revealed genetic links to immune behavior, they are now combining these vaccines with other treatments, including targeted therapies, bone marrow transplant, and gene and gene-pathway inhibitors to make progress against difficult cancers, including pancreas cancer and multiple myeloma. Immunology advances also have improved bone marrow transplant outcomes by preventing the patientâs immune system from rejecting donor marrow. Immunoediting is a process by which a person is protected from cancer growth and the development of tumor immunogenicity by their immune system. It has three main phases: elimination, equilibrium and escape.Elimination: elimination involves the initiation of an antitumor immune response. Newly synthesized IFN-gamma induces tumor death (to a limited amount) as well as promoting the production of chemokines CXCL10, CXCL9and CXCL11. These chemokines play an important role in promoting tumor death by blocking the formation of new blood vessels. Natural killer cells and macrophages transactivate one another via the reciprocal production of IFN-gamma and IL-12. This again promotes more tumor killing by these cells via apoptosis and the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates. In the final phase of elimination, tumor-specific CD4+ and CD8+T cells home to the tumor site and the cytolytic T lymphocytes then destroy the antigen-bearing tumor cells which remain at the site.Equilibrium and Escape: Tumor cell variants which have survived the elimination phase enter the equilibrium phase. In this phase, lymphocytes and IFN-gamma exert a selection pressure on tumor cells which are genetically unstable and rapidly mutating. Tumor cell variants which have acquired resistance to elimination then enter the escape phase. In this phase, tumor cells continue to grow and expand in an uncontrolled manner and may eventually lead to malignancies.
Last date updated on July, 2014