Immune System and Cancer


Much like infectious agents, tumor cells express specific antigens that differentiate them from normal cells1:

  • T cells can recognize and destroy cells displaying tumor antigens1

  • B cells drive the production of antibodies directed against tumor antigens1,2

T cell infiltration within tumors is associated with overall survival (OS)
in patients with different cancers.3-4

Learn more by watching Immunotherapy Fights Cancer(2:25)

Immune evasion is now recognized as playing a key role in the origination and development of cancer.


Cancers inhibit the normal immune response through a variety of mechanisms, enabling malignant cells to grow and spread.1,6 Patients with a compromised immune system may have an increased incidence of cancer and are more likely to develop malignant tumors. 7-10

There is a dynamic relationship between a patient’s immune system and tumor cells. Normally, the immune system is capable of eliminating tumor cells.

However, the more compromised or suppressed a patient’s immune system is, the more likely it
is that tumor cells will use evasive techniques to avoid the immune system.11


  1. Murphy K, Travers P, Walport M, eds. Janeway’s Immunobiology. 7th ed. Garland Science, Taylor & Frances Group, LLC. New York, NY: 2008.
  2. Namm JP, Li Q, Lao X, et al. J Surg Oncol. 2012;105:431-435.
  3. Zhang L, et al. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:203-213.
  4. Galon J, et al. Science. 2006;313:1960-1964.
  5. Hanahan D, et al. Cell. 2011;144(5):646-674.
  6. Ribas A, Butterfield LH, Glaspy JA, Economou JS. J Clin Oncol. 2003;21:2415-2432.
  7. Kasiske BL, Wang C, et al. Am J Transplant. 2004;4(6):905-913.
  8. Le Mire L, Wojnarowska F, et al. Br J Dermatol. 2006;154(3):472-477.
  9. Herrero JI. Liver Transpl. 2009;15(suppl 2):S90-S94.
  10. Abbas AK, Lichtman AH. Basic Immunology. 3rd ed. 2011.
  11. Dunn GP, et al. Nat Rev Immunol. 2006;6(11):836-848.