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Through the process of immune surveillance, the immune system continually identifies and destroys cancer cells as they arise, thereby halting tumor development. When cancer does develop, one powerful new strategy to treat the disease is immunotherapy, an approach in which a person’s own immune cells are induced to recognize tumor-specific antigens and attack and destroy the malignant cells.
However, an excessive immune reaction can also have detrimental effects such as inducing chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease develops when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and organs because it improperly recognizes these “self” components as “nonself.” Therefore, maintaining a balanced function of the immune system is crucial for one’s well-being.
Investigators in the Department of Immunology are expanding our understanding of the interplay between the immune system and the regulation of cellular function and signaling. Disruptions in these intricate processes can lead to various human diseases. Thus, discoveries being made at St. Jude hold promise for translation into innovative immunotherapy strategies against infection, inflammation, and cancer.