Immune selection in neoplasia: towards a microevolutionary model of cancer development

Br J Cancer. 2000 Jun;82(12):1900-6. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2000.1206.


The dual properties of genetic instability and clonal expansion allow the development of a tumour to occur in a microevolutionary fashion. A broad range of pressures are exerted upon a tumour during neoplastic development. Such pressures are responsible for the selection of adaptations which provide a growth or survival advantage to the tumour. The nature of such selective pressures is implied in the phenotype of tumours that have undergone selection. We have reviewed a range of immunologically relevant adaptations that are frequently exhibited by common tumours. Many of these have the potential to function as mechanisms of immune response evasion by the tumour. Thus, such adaptations provide evidence for both the existence of immune surveillance, and the concept of immune selection in neoplastic development. This line of reasoning is supported by experimental evidence from murine models of immune involvement in neoplastic development. The process of immune selection has serious implications for the development of clinical immunotherapeutic strategies and our understanding of current in vivo models of tumour immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Clonal Anergy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Models, Immunological
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Escape*