Cancer immunoediting: from immunosurveillance to tumor escape

Nat Immunol. 2002 Nov;3(11):991-8. doi: 10.1038/ni1102-991.


The concept that the immune system can recognize and destroy nascent transformed cells was originally embodied in the cancer immunosurveillance hypothesis of Burnet and Thomas. This hypothesis was abandoned shortly afterwards because of the absence of strong experimental evidence supporting the concept. New data, however, clearly show the existence of cancer immunosurveillance and also indicate that it may function as a component of a more general process of cancer immunoediting. This process is responsible for both eliminating tumors and sculpting the immunogenic phenotypes of tumors that eventually form in immunocompetent hosts. In this review, we will summarize the historical and experimental basis of cancer immunoediting and discuss its dual roles in promoting host protection against cancer and facilitating tumor escape from immune destruction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Immunologic Surveillance* / genetics
  • Immunologic Surveillance* / immunology
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects
  • Incidence
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, SCID
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Transplantation Immunology
  • Tumor Escape*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm