Selection of metastatic tumour phenotypes by host immune systems

Lancet. 1999 Dec 4;354(9194):1989-91. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(99)04435-9.


Metastasis and the processes underlying this phenomenon make epithelial cancers so malignant. Local control of cancers by surgery is sometimes possible but locoregional and distant recurrence commonly lead to the failure of treatment with ensuing morbidity and mortality. Tumour cells express a range of new antigens during growth and there are opportunities for the host immune system to interact with these antigens. This immune interaction eliminates the tumour or allows selection of phenotypic variants. Cell phenotypes selected by an incomplete immune response resemble the cell type commonly associated with metastases. Thus we propose that the host immune system may be responsible for selection of this phenotype and progression of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / immunology
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / secondary*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / surgery
  • Phenotype
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Treatment Failure


  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Antigens, Neoplasm