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US Oncol. 2009;58(1):40-48.

Respiratory Homeostasis and Exploitation of the Immune System for Lung Cancer Vaccines.

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Post-doctoral Fellow, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California San Francisco.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in the US. The international scientific and clinical community has made significant advances toward understanding specific molecular mechanisms underlying lung carcinogenesis; however, despite these insights and advances in surgery and chemoradiotherapy, the prognosis for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains poor. Nonetheless, significant effort is being focused on advancing translational research evaluating the efficacy of novel targeted therapeutic strategies for lung cancer. Illustrative examples of this include antagonists of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib, and a diverse assortment of anti-angiogenic compounds targeting growth factors and/or their receptors that regulate tumor-associated angiogenic programs. In addition, with the increased awareness of the significant role chronically activated leukocytes play as potentiators of solid-tumor development, the role of innate and adaptive immune cells as regulators of lung carcinogenesis is being examined. While some of these studies are examining how novel therapeutic strategies may enhance the efficacy of lung cancer vaccines, others are evaluating the intrinsic characteristics of the immune response to lung cancer in order to identify rate-limiting molecular and/or cellular programs to target with novel anticancer therapeutics. In this article, we explore important aspects of the immune system and its role in regulating normal respiratory homeostasis compared with the immune response accompanying development of lung cancer. These hallmarks are then discussed in the context of recent efforts to develop lung cancer vaccines, where we have highlighted important concepts that must be taken into consideration for future development of novel therapeutic strategies and clinical trials assessing their efficacy.


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