home

How could we improve it?

close
chevron
This article contains false or inaccurate information.
chevron

Please tell us what was incorrect.

wanring-icon
Please note that you do not need to fill this detail if it's inconvenient for you. Click Send My Opinion below to continue reading our site.
chevron
This article doesn't provide enough info.
chevron

Please tell us what was missing.

wanring-icon
Please note that you do not need to fill this detail if it's inconvenient for you. Click Send My Opinion below to continue reading our site.
chevron
Hmm... I have a question.
chevron

We’re unable to offer personal health advice, diagnosis, or treatment, but we welcome your feedback! Just type it in the box below.

wanring-icon
If you're facing a medical emergency, call your local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

Or copy link

New

Can Your Immune System Fight off Cancer? Find Out Here

Can Your Immune System Fight off Cancer? Find Out Here

Your immune system acts as one of your body’s line of defense against disease and illness. But can your immune system fight off cancer? Is it possible to have a strong enough immune system to do so?

How does the immune system work?

As you might already know, your immune system protects you against all sorts of diseases and illnesses. But how exactly does your body do this?

When a foreign substance such as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens invade your body, your immune system sends out specialized cells. These cells all have different roles, but they work in conjunction with one another to look for the invaders, and destroy them as quickly as possible.

There are also two main branches to the body’s immune system, which are the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system1.

So can your immune system fight off cancer? In a sense. Your innate immune system serves to protect your body against most common invaders. These include bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It’s also known as the nonspecific immune system, since it doesn’t target any specific pathogen. You can think of it as the immune system’s first layer of defense.

On the other hand, the adaptive immune system is a more specialized form of protection. The adaptive immune system protects us against specific pathogens that we have already been in contact with.

One example of your adaptive immune system is when you get infected with chickenpox and recover, your body usually has immunity for life. This is because your adaptive immune system is already familiar with chickenpox, so it can easily fight off the disease. Vaccines also work in a similar way in that they teach your adaptive immune system how to fight off specific pathogens.

Can your immune system fight off cancer?

Now that we know how the immune system works, we can now talk about the question of “Can your immune system fight off cancer?” The short answer to this is that yes, our immune system can actually find and destroy cancer cells.

Some of the cells that our immune system sends out are able to locate cancer cells and deal with them accordingly2. It’s even possible that your immune system has already destroyed any pre-cancer or cancer cells without you even knowing it.

Now, you might be asking, “If the immune system can fight off cancer, why do people still get sick?” The answer to this question is that our immune system is not always enough to fight off cancer cells.

Our immune system typically looks for what’s known as neoantigens when fighting off cancer cells. These neoantigens are found on the surface of cancer cells, and are a type of protein fragment.

When the immune cells detect neoantigens, they start to attack the cell and destroy it since they recognize it as an invader. However, this only works if there are enough antigens on the cell’s surface.

If there are not enough neoantigens, then our immune system can’t detect the cancer cells at all. This means that they are unable to destroy it, and cancer can start to spread. By the time the immune system detects the cancer cells, it’s usually too late3.

So, a better answer to the question of “Can your immune system fight off cancer?” is that yes, it can fight off cancer, but it’s usually not enough.

What doctors are doing about it

While the answer to the question of “Can your immune system fight off cancer?” isn’t a resounding yes, there are still ways to take advantage of the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

One form of treatment, known as immunotherapy, uses different methods for the immune system to fight off cancer. Some forms of immunotherapy block immune checkpoints, which are the body’s way of regulating the immune system. Without these checkpoints, immune cells can more readily find and destroy cancer cells4.

Other approaches use proteins that bind to and mark cancer cells. These essentially act as a target that immune cells can find and subsequently destroy. Immunotherapy can be used as a standalone treatment, or alongside other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy5.

When it comes to cancer and the immune system and “can your immune system fight off cancer?”, it’s not enough to rely on the latter to fight off cancer. It’s still important to undergo treatment, and weigh your options with your doctor to find out the best way to deal with the disease.

Learn more about Cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources
  1. How does the immune system work? – Cancer Research Institute (CRI), https://www.cancerresearch.org/blog/april-2019/how-does-the-immune-system-work-cancer, Accessed June 7, 2021
  2. The immune system and cancer | Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/body-systems-and-cancer/the-immune-system-and-cancer, Accessed June 7, 2021
  3. The Immune System Can Fight Cancer. So Why Doesn’t It? | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, https://www.mskcc.org/news/immune-system-can-fight-cancer-so-why-doesn-t-it, Accessed June 7, 2021
  4. Immunotherapy for Cancer – National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy, Accessed June 7, 2021
  5. Forcing the Immune System to Attack Cancer, https://aabme.asme.org/posts/scientists-develop-virus-that-forces-the-immune-system-to-attack-cancer, Accessed June 7, 2021
Picture of the author
Written by Jan Alwyn Batara on 2 weeks ago
x