Adaptive immunity in cancer immunology and therapeutics.
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The vast genetic alterations characteristic of tumours produce a number of tumour antigens that enable the immune system to differentiate tumour cells from normal cells. Counter to this, tumour cells have developed mechanisms by which to evade host immunity in their constant quest for growth and survival. Tumour-associated antigens (TAAs) are one of the fundamental triggers of the immune response. They are important because they activate, via major histocompatibility complex (MHC), the T cell response, an important line of defense against tumourigenesis. However, the persistence of tumours despite host immunity implies that tumour cells develop immune avoidance. An example of this is the up-regulation of inhibitory immune checkpoint proteins, by tumours, which induces a form of self-tolerance. The majority of monoclonal antibodies in clinical practice have been developed to target tumour-specific antigens. More recently there has been research in the down-regulation of immune checkpoint proteins as a way of increasing anti-tumour immunity.