Understanding the Role of the Immune System in the Development of Cancer: New Opportunities for Population-Based Research

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  • Understanding the precise role of the immune system in cancer has been hindered by the complexity of the immune response and challenges in measuring immune cell types in health and disease in the context of large epidemiologic studies. In this review, we present the rationale to study immunity in cancer and highlight newly available tools to further elucidate the epidemiologic factors driving individual variation in the immune response in cancer. Here, we summarize key studies that have evaluated the role of immunological status on risk of cancer, discuss tools that have been used in epidemiological studies to measure immune status, as well as new evolving methodologies where application to epidemiology is becoming more feasible. We also encourage further development of novel emerging technologies that will continue to enable prospective assessment of the dynamic and complex role played by the immune system in cancer susceptibility. Finally, we summarize characteristics and environmental factors that impact the immune response, as these will need to be considered in epidemiological settings. Overall, we consider the application of a systems biologic approach and highlight new opportunities to understand the immune response in cancer risk.
  • This is an author's peer-reviewed final manuscript, as accepted by the publisher. The published article is copyrighted by the American Association for Cancer Research and can be found at:
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  • Michaud, D. S., Houseman, E. A., Marsit, C. J., Nelson, H. H., Wiencke, J. K., & Kelsey, K. T. (2015). Understanding the role of the immune system in the development of cancer: new opportunities for population-based research. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 24(12), 1811-1819. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0681
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  • 24
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  • 12
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  • J.K. Wiencke: The support of the Robert Magnin Newman Endowment for Neuro-oncology; H.H.Nelson: Cancer Center: P30 CA077598; C. Marsit: Cancer Center P30 CA023108; D.S. Michaud: Tufts University Cancer Center.
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