The Immune System in Fighting Cancer: A Key Player

The Immune System in Fighting Cancer: A Key Player

In the fight against cancer, our body’s defense system, the immune system, plays a huge role. As cancer grows, there’s a phase where the bad cells dodge the immune system’s control.

Different treatments like immunotherapies, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, and radiation aim to fix this or slow down cancer growth. Understanding how the immune system controls cancer, known as immunosurveillance, is super important in how doctors manage cancer today.

How Immunosurveillance Helps Treatments

We used to think cancer only affected cells, but now we know it affects the whole body’s system, including the immune system and other parts. Immunosurveillance is how our body’s defense system stops cancer from growing. For tumors to become a big problem, the changed cells must hide from our body’s anti-cancer response.

Finding certain immune cells in the tumor and signs of T-cell activity is really important. These things tell us how treatments, especially immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), which help T cells fight cancer, might work. These treatments are a big part of fighting cancer today, and doctors use them for lots of different types of cancer.

Three Steps in How the Immune System and Cancer Fight

Understanding how the immune system fights cancer is crucial for treating mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. Just like other cancers, mesothelioma cells try to hide from the body’s defenses. Scientists are studying ways to boost the immune system to fight these cells. By learning from treatments for other cancers, they hope to create new ways to tackle mesothelioma, offering hope for better treatments in the future.

The immune system and cancer cells have three steps in how they interact. First, getting rid of the new cancer cells. Second, finding a balance. And three, the cancer cells breaking free from the immune system’s control. When cancer cells start growing without the immune system stopping them, that’s when we can see and find cancer in the body.

Mixing treatments that hurt cancer cells and help the immune system fight the tumor works really well. These mixes, called chemoimmunotherapy, are bringing hope for fighting tough cancers. Doctors are talking a lot about how immunosurveillance is super important in planning how they treat cancer, even before they operate on it.

Knowing how our immune system fights cancer helps us make better treatments. By using the immune system to control cancer, we’re making better and more focused treatments. This understanding helps us look for new and better ways to fight cancer, marking a big change in how we battle this disease.


Kroemer, Guido, Timothy A. Chan, Alexander M. M. Eggermont, and Lorenzo Galluzzi. “Immunosurveillance in Clinical Cancer Management.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, October 25, 2023. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21818.


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