The concept of immunological tolerance has guided and permeated much of modern immunology. Ray Owen's ground-breaking observations in twin cattle provided the first mechanistic explanation for tolerance to self-molecules and established tolerance as a beneficial process that protects the host against autoreactivity. However, his studies also opened the door to understanding that tolerance may be detrimental, such as occurs when cancer cells induce tolerance/immune suppression resulting in inhibition of anti-tumor immunity. This article briefly traces the early history of the field of tumor immunology with respect to tolerance, and then focuses on a relatively recently identified population of cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). MDSC are instrumental in causing tolerance/immune suppression in individuals with cancer. They are present in most individuals with cancer and because of their potent immune suppressive activity are a major deterrent to natural anti-tumor immunity and a significant obstacle to immunotherapy.
Keywords: Immune suppression; MDSC; Myeloid-derived suppressor cells; Tolerance; Tumor immunology.
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