Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 353–367 | Cite as

Contribution of the immune system to the chemotherapeutic response

  • Alison M. McDonnell
  • Anna K. Nowak
  • Richard A. Lake


The immune system plays an important role in the surveillance of neoplastic cells by eliminating them before they manifest as full-blown cancer. Despite this, tumors do develop in the presence of a functioning immune system. Conventional chemotherapy and its ability to directly kill tumor cells is one of the most effective weapons in the fight against cancer, however, increasing evidence suggests that the therapeutic efficacy of some cytotoxic drugs relies on their capacity to interact with the immune system. Killing of tumor cells in a manner that favors their capture by immune cells or selective targeting of immunosuppressive pathways by specific chemotherapies promotes the generation of an effective anti-cancer response; however, this alone is rarely sufficient to cause elimination of advanced disease. An understanding of the immunological events occurring in both animal models and patients undergoing chemotherapy will guide decisions for the development of appropriate combinations and scheduling for the integration of chemotherapy with immunotherapy.


Tumor immunity 1 Cancer chemotherapy 2 T lymphocytes 3 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison M. McDonnell
    • 1
  • Anna K. Nowak
    • 1
  • Richard A. Lake
    • 1
  1. 1.National Centre for Asbestos-Related Diseases and School of Medicine and PharmacologyThe University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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