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How do tumours avoid attack by our immune system?

  • Researcher: Dr Jacqueline Shields
  • Institution: MRC Cancer Unit/University of Cambridge
  • Award Amount: £161,364 for 3 years from January 2012
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
How do tumours avoid attack by our immune system?
It has long been suspected that our immune system has the potential to attack and kill cancer cells. However, at least in some cases, it appears not to actually prevent tumours from growing as they have a variety of ways to prevent the immune system from recognising or attacking them. One way the tumour does this is by accumulating non-cancer cells to create something known as a tumour stroma network, although it is still unclear how this protects the tumour from the immune system and encourages it to grow. There are also lymphatic vessels (tubes) whose main role is to drain fluids and other molecules from leaky blood vessels and provide an escape route for cancer cells. Interestingly, these lymphatic vessels also provide a direct connection between the immune system and the tumour, making it more confusing how the tumours can grow and thrive. Dr Shields is using her Worldwide Cancer Research grant to try to determine how the tumours manage to evade attack by the immune system. In particular she is focussing on the role of the lymphatic system and the tumour stroma network.
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