Senin, 09 Juli 2007

The Immune System and Cancer

The July 2007 issue of Scientific American has an informative article on the role of the immune system in the development and spread of cancer. (A Malignant Flame. Scientific American July 2007, pp. 60-67). The article describes how our thinking has changed over the past decade or so.

It turns out that although the immune system sometimes helps to prevent the development and spread of cancer, at other times the immune system actually contributes to cancer development. This is particularly true of the non-specific immune defense mechanisms (they call it the “innate” immune system). The next generation of anti-cancer drugs may include some anti-inflammatory therapies, as well as traditional chemotherapies. Instructors with a special interest in cancer may wish to incorporate information in the article into their discussion of Chapter 18 – Cancer – in Human Biology, 5th ed.

The article points out that the immune system is also increasingly being implicated as a possible player in a whole host of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia and depression. More information is likely to be forthcoming on the role of the immune system in these diseases in the years to come.

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