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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2012 Jul;61(7):963-6. doi: 10.1007/s00262-012-1233-5. Epub 2012 May 18.

Is an immune reaction required for malignant transformation and cancer growth?

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  • 1Pathology Department, University of Washington, Seattle, USA. prehn@u.washington.edu


Increasing evidence has shown that probably all malignant mouse cells, even those of spontaneous sporadic cancers, are endowed with tumor-specific antigens. Stimulation of cancer growth, rather than inhibition by the immune reaction, is seemingly the prevalent effect in the animal of origin (the autochthonous animal). Small initial dosages of even strong tumor antigens tend to produce stimulatory immune reactions rather than tumor inhibition in any animal. Thus, an immune response at a low level may be an essential growth-driving feature of nascent cancers, and this may be why all cancers apparently have tumor-specific antigens. Inasmuch as a low level of immunity is stimulatory to tumor growth while larger dosages are inhibitory, immuno-selection via this low response may tend to keep the antitumor immune reaction weak and at a nearly maximal stimulatory level throughout most of a tumor's existence. These facts suggest that both suppression of tumor immunity and a heightened immune reaction might each be therapeutic although very contrasting modalities.

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