Tumor Immunity
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Tumor immunity

Tumor Immunity

Cancer is a major health problem worldwide and one of the most important causes

of morbidity and mortality in children and adults. The lethality of malignant tumors is

due to their uncontrolled growth within normal tissues, causing damage and

functional impairment. The malignant phenotype of cancers reflects defects in

regulation of cell proliferation, resistance of the tumor cells to apoptotic death,

ability of the tumor cells to invade host tissues and metastasize to distant sites, and

tumor evasion of host immune defense mechanisms.

The existence of immune surveillance has been demonstrated by the increased

incidence of some types of tumors in immunocompromised experimental animals

and humans. It is now clear that the innate and adaptive immune systems do react

against many tumors, and exploiting these reactions to specifically destroy tumors

remains an important goal of tumor immunologists. Several characteristics of tumor

antigens and immune responses to tumors are fundamental to an understanding of

tumor immunity and for the development of strategies for cancer immunotherapy.

The existence of specific anti-tumor immunity implies that tumors must express

antigens that are recognized as foreign by the host. The earliest classification of

tumor antigens was based on their patterns of expression. Antigens that are

expressed on tumor cells but not on normal cells are called tumor-specific antigens;

some of these antigens are unique to individual tumors, whereas others are shared

among tumors of the same type.

Tumor antigens that are also expressed on normal cells are called tumor-associated

antigens; in most cases, these antigens are normal cellular constituents whose

expression is aberrant or dys-regulated in tumors. The modern classification of tumor

antigens is based on the molecular structure and source of antigens expressed by

tumor cells that stimulate T cell or antibody responses in their hosts.