I'm finally starting our series on Immunotherapy. The first thing I want to cover is a very general, quick overview of our immune system. There’s no way I can communicate the complexity of the immune system in one illustration, so, again, I’m going to go broad.
Your immune system protects your body from foreign substances that may cause sickness, disease, and/or illness and even death. Specialized cells survey your body for these invaders, and either directly eliminate the invader or mark it to be destroyed by other specialized cells. Furthermore, other specialized cells can “file” these invaders away, as a way of remembering the invader the next time it tries to invade. The subsequent immune response is faster and stronger.
Clearly, your immune system is far more complex and amazing than this. But in terms of cancer, the most important thing you need to understand is this idea of something being “foreign,” or “non-self.”
Every single cell that makes up you has a distinctive marker that labels itself as specific to you. Anything else that comes into your body does not have that same distinction. Our specialized immune cells can thus identify what is self and what is non-self, or foreign.
Now, what do you think happens when your immune cells encounter a cancerous, or tumor cell?
Answer, coming soon!
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