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Immunotargets Ther. 2012 Jun 13;1:1-6. doi: 10.2147/ITT.S29834. eCollection 2012.

Cancer as an immune-mediated disease.

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1
Departments of Pathology and Immunology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Abstract

The link between oncology and immunology has a long history and its development is forced by the necessity to develop innovative and highly efficient modalities for immunological destruction of malignant cells. The limited efficacy of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation also exemplify these issues, as these treatments do not eliminate all cancerous cells, do not address the immunosuppressive nature of the disease and can further impair the patient's immune response weakening patient's resistance to the cancer. Multidisciplinary analysis of the interaction between the immune system and cancer in preclinical and clinical settings suggests that the immune system is closely intertwined with both cancer pathogenesis and treatment. On the one hand, cancer is a manifestation of malfunctions in immunity, as malignant cells manage to escape recognition and elimination by the immune system. Chronic infections and inflammation associated with limited or polarized immune responses also contribute to carcinogenesis and tumor progression. The tumor immunoenvironment represents specific conditions and elements that support cancerous cell survival, proliferation and spreading. On the other hand, the specificity and strength of antitumor immunity is a powerful and efficient tool that can be used to recognize and destroy neoplastic cells or their supporting microenvironment. Understanding the role of the immune system in controlling and supporting tumor initiation, formation, growth and progression has crucial implications for cancer therapy and will therefore guide the future development of cancer immunotherapy and its combination with conventional therapies to achieve optimal antitumor effects in patients with different types of cancer.

KEYWORDS:

cancer; immunosuppression; regulatory immune cells; tumor immunoenvironment; tumor immunology and immunotherapy

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