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. 2017 Jan 24;8(4):7175-7180.
doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12739.

The Concept of Immune Surveillance Against Tumors. The First Theories

Free PMC article

The Concept of Immune Surveillance Against Tumors. The First Theories

Domenico Ribatti. Oncotarget. .
Free PMC article


The immune system plays a major role in the surveillance against tumors. To avoid attack from the immune system, tumor cells develop different strategies to escape immune surveillance. Evidence of immune surveillance comes from both animal models and clinical observations. Mice with a wide variety of immunodeficiencies have a high rate of tumor incidence and are more susceptible to transplanted or chemical carcinogen-induced tumors. Immunosuppressed patients have a high incidence of tumors. However, many patients develop cancer even in the presence of an apparently normal immune system. This indicates that tumor cells are able to escape immune surveillance. The aim of this review article is to summarize the literature concerning the development of the theory of immune surveillance against tumors; to discuss the evidence for and against this theory, and to discuss the concept of immunoediting. Finally, the current approaches in anti-tumor immunotherapy will be analyzed.

Keywords: Antigen; T cell; history of medicine; immune surveillance; tumor.

Conflict of interest statement


The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1. A portrait of Paul Ehrlich
Figure 2
Figure 2. A portrait of Lewis Thomas
Figure 3
Figure 3. A portrait of Frank MacFarlane Burnet
Figure 4
Figure 4. A portrait of Robert D. Schreiber
Figure 5
Figure 5. Time sheet of the protagonists of research in tumor immunology and of the milestones in immunotherapy of tumors

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