, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 55-79
Date: 12 Aug 2009

Inflammation, Aging, and Cancer: Tumoricidal Versus Tumorigenesis of Immunity

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Abstract

Acute inflammation is a highly regulated defense mechanism of immune system possessing two well-balanced and biologically opposing arms termed apoptosis (‘Yin’) and wound healing (‘Yang’) processes. Unresolved or chronic inflammation (oxidative stress) is perhaps the loss of balance between ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ that would induce co-expression of exaggerated or ‘mismatched’ apoptotic and wound healing factors in the microenvironment of tissues (‘immune meltdown’). Unresolved inflammation could initiate the genesis of many age-associated chronic illnesses such as autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases or tumors/cancers. In this perspective ‘birds’ eye’ view of major interrelated co-morbidity risk factors that participate in biological shifts of growth-arresting (‘tumoricidal’) or growth-promoting (‘tumorigenic’) properties of immune cells and the genesis of chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer will be discussed. Persistent inflammation is perhaps a common denominator in the genesis of nearly all age-associated health problems or cancer. Future challenging opportunities for diagnosis, prevention, and/or therapy of chronic illnesses will require an integrated understanding and identification of developmental phases of inflammation-induced immune dysfunction and age-associated hormonal and physiological readjustments of organ systems. Designing suitable cohort studies to establish the oxido-redox status of adults may prove to be an effective strategy in assessing individual’s health toward developing personal medicine for healthy aging.