Pathogen-driven cancers and emerging immune therapeutic strategies

Cancer Immunol Res. 2014 Jan;2(1):9-14. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-13-0179.


Infectious agents play an etiologic role in approximately 20% of cancer cases worldwide. Eleven pathogens (seven viruses, three parasites, and one bacterium) are known to contribute to oncogenesis either directly via the expression of their protein products or indirectly via chronic inflammation. Although prevention of infection and antimicrobial treatments have helped in reducing infection rates and the incidence of associated malignancies, therapies for these cancers remain limited. The importance of immune control over malignant progression is highlighted by the fact that many cancers, particularly those induced by pathogens, occur more frequently among immunosuppressed patients as compared with healthy individuals. Therefore, therapeutic strategies that can elicit a robust immune response and restore tumor detection may be a beneficial approach for treating these cancers. In addition, the study of immune escape mechanisms used by pathogens and their associated cancers may provide insight into the mechanisms of malignant transformation and improved therapies for cancer more generally.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Infection Control
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / virology