Immunobiology of head and neck cancer: basic concepts

Head & Neck Surgery
H J Wanebo

Abstract

Patients with squamous cancer of the head and neck have unique perturbations of the immune system. These patients have marked depression of cellular immunity even in the early stages of disease. The known facts about the immunobiology and the immunodeficiencies that commonly occur are discussed. Also reviewed are the relationships of the immunologic deficits to stage of disease, to prognosis, and to the suspected etiologic factors of smoking, alcoholism, and malnutrition. Highlights are given of current immunotherapeutic trials. To date, most of the successful efforts in both immunologic research and immunotherapy of head and neck cancer have dealt with general, rather than specific, immune reactions. Further development in the area of specific immune responses may permit more meaningful measurements of tumor-specific reactions, thus yielding useful tools for immunodiagnosis as well as providing more effective and precise methods of immunotherapy.

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Immune Response
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