Cancer-Immunity Cycle - Review and Roundup

Cancer Immunity - Fun Review and Computer Game.

Now more than ever, the immune system is a key consideration in the treatment of many different cancers. Consisting of seven steps, the cancer-immunity cycle is basic to the understanding of the immune system and its interactions with malignancy.

Gamification Strongly Recommended
If you haven’t yet tried the Computer Game, “T Cells Attack,” you should do so, since it pulls together all of the important pieces in one fun game – plus it is entertaining and has good music.

Disclaimer: It can be a bit addictive, in that Angry Birds sort of way.

4 Key Players, to Get You Started

1. Antigens
Microscopic patches, nooks and crannies that the immune system can recognize as foreign. Examples: a piece of a bacterial cell wall, or in a cancer cell, a misshaped, mutated protein on the surface of the cell.

As you know, your immune system has the ability to recognize foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. But did you know your immune system also detects what might be described as “shoddy or foreign construction?” That’s right – a veritable chunk of bricks and mortar that your body assesses and quickly deems “not my product, not of my construction and therefore foreign.”

2. Antigen Presenting Cells
Cells that specialize in capturing antigens, processing them, and displaying them in a special way so that other immune cells can be alerted to the presence of foreign antigen.

Antigen presenting cells are immune cells that specialize in identifying and capturing antigens process these bits of foreign material and take them to T cells, located in the lymph nodes.

Cancer immunotherapy can boost immunity at this step and others. Antigen-presenting cells are a mixed group of immune cells that get involved in the cellular immune response by processing and presenting antigens for recognition by certain lymphocytes such as T cells.

Some of the cells that can perform this function include dendritic cells, macrophages, Langerhans cells and B cells.

3. T-cells
Your basic immune system soldier cell. Not only to they pick up on the alerts from antigen presenting cells, they also send their own signals and can be recruited as part of the “army” of immune cells that respond to a tumor.

T cells recognize cancer cells as foreign based on the antigens, sometimes called neoantigens, cancer cells make and release in the cancer-immunity cycle. T cells that travel to tumors find not just the cancer cells, but oftentimes a whole cast of characters, including other immune cells. The CD8+ cytotoxic lymphocyte has been shown to interact with tumor cells through a special receptor. But other cells in the local environment -- the tumor microenvironment -- can play a big role in determining what kind of response the T cells are able to mount.

4. Antibodies
One of the most famous products of the immune system – large proteins whose mission it is to find and stick to dangerous foreign antigens.

They serve as scouts, binding to antigens and thereby becoming a kind of red flag to the immune system -- antibodies can start some immune action on their own, but they also set the wheels into motion for a much more powerful, full-fledged immune response involving the immune cell army.

B-lymphocytes, also called plasma cells, are the immune cells that make antibodies. Antibodies drift around and circulate throughout the body. When an antibody comes in close contact with an antigen that it recognizes, it binds, or attaches to the antigen.

Monoclonal antibodies are a special case:

Normally, the immune system generates a huge variety of antibodies that recognize a whole array of different antigens -- and even different nooks and crannies of the same antigen.

In the laboratory, however, scientists learned how to take one specific antibody and make many copies of it. The term monoclonal refers to the process of making copies of this single, specific antibody using one clone of cells -- that is, one unique parent cell and its progeny from cell division. Some monoclonal antibodies use genetic engineering to combine parts from different sources to create one, new synthesized antibody having characteristics that are desirable for treatment.

For more on this, see: How Antibodies Treat Cancer

Sources and Background on Cancer Antigens and Immunity:

Neo-antigens predicted by tumor genome meta-analysis correlate with increased patient survival.

Monoclonal antibodies to treat cancer

Modified Immunotoxin as Potential Therapy for Patients With B-cell Malignancies.

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