Immune System Decoding

Immune System Decoding

24 March 2016,   By ,   0 Comments

It’s no secret that immunotherapy is changing how we treat cancer. However, this field of cancer care and the immune system are both very complicated, and scientists continue to learn more every day.

In this edition of Guided by Science, we define a few key terms that are frequently lost in translation to help you better understand how the immune system works and the promise of immuno-oncology.

CANCER

Cancer is not a singular disease. Rather, cancer describes a class of diseases in which abnormal cells can grow without control and invade other parts of the body. The result is a growth called a tumor. There are over 100 types of cancer and each case has unique characteristics. Accordingly, the idea of a single cure for cancer is not aligned with the reality of treating this class of disease.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body from disease. To combat disease, the immune system must detect and defend against countless pathogens and distinguish these pathogens from healthy tissue. When functioning properly, the immune system has a natural ability to recognize and attack cancer cells anywhere in the body.

Cancer Cells

PATHOGEN

Pathogen is a broad term describing anything that can cause disease. The term can refer to viruses, bacteria, parasites or other potentially harmful agents. One of the main tasks of the immune system is to recognize harmful substances from the outside environment and neutralize pathogens that have entered the body.

T CELL

T cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in the immune system to eliminate or prevent pathogens. T cell are often likened to soldiers of the immune system because they can seek out and destroy cells that are infected with germs or that have become cancerous.

Antibodies binding

ANTIBODY

Antibodies are proteins that the immune system uses to identify and neutralize target pathogens. Each antibody recognizes and binds to a specific antigen. This allows antibodies to tag a pathogen or abnormal cell for the immune system to see and destroy.

ANTIGEN

An antigen is commonly a protein produced by a cell, virus, or bacteria. In the case of cancer antigens, the protein or part of a protein is on the surface of the cancer cell that alerts the immune system. This causes the production of antibodies or creates T cells that can recognize and potentially destroy the cancer cell expressing that antigen.

The immune system is a complex and essential part of the body’s survival. Immunotherapy harnesses this innate power to identify and eliminate cancer, which can use several mechanisms to evade the immune system. As the cancer treatment landscape shifts rapidly toward new immunotherapy combinations, Guided By Science is here to help you stay up-to-date every step of the way.


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