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Cancer Surv. 1992;13:173-204.

T cell immune response to cancer in humans and its relevance for immunodiagnosis and therapy.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Royal London Hospital Medical College.


Review of the relationship between the degree of immunosuppression and malignancy in patients on immunosuppressive drugs or immunosuppressed by HIV infection, postoperative blood transfusion or pregnancy provides the most convincing evidence of the importance of intact T cell immunity in resistance to cancer. Defective HLA class I and II antigen expression on tumours arising in non-immunosuppressed individuals and correlation of these changes with increased malignancy and diminished TIL provide the most convincing evidence that one factor necessary to ensure survival of most spontaneous tumours is mutation that enables tumour cells to escape rejection by cytotoxic T cells. These changes are less frequent in tumours in immunosuppressed patients, and preliminary data suggest that use of cytokine therapy is more successful in these tumours and the one in five spontaneous tumours demonstrating normal expression of HLA antigens and high levels of T cell infiltration. These observations suggest that future use of this therapy should be focused on these cases. All modalities of cancer therapy except hormone therapy (ie surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy) suppress immune responses. Defects of HLA antigen expression are less marked in early cancer. Combinations of immunotherapy with conventional treatment at presentation, including hormone therapy in view of data demonstrating regeneration of the thymus after castration, needs further investigation. Preliminary results from randomized trials involving nearly 300 individuals accidentally exposed to carcinogens demonstrated nearly 60% reduction of incidence of malignancy at 5 years in the arm receiving non-specific immunotherapy. If confirmed, such an approach might be more cost-effective as an approach for cancer prevention than organ specific cancer screening or vaccination against cancer associated viruses such as hepatitis B or papillomaviruses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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