Today I finished my Immunology class that started in September 2010. What a great class; I'm a little sad it is over. I learned so much about vaccination, breast feeding, getting sick, asthma, AIDS, cancer treatments, and autoimmunity (to name name a few). This semester has been particularly interesting; since January we've covered the following topics: Allergies, Immunological Memory, Immunodeficiency Diseases, the "Hygiene Hypothesis", Vaccines, Cancer, and Autoimmune Diseases.
Cool topics, huh?
The last lecture of the course was devoted to cancer. Here are some notes:
- Cancer is essentially a failure of immunity.
- Cancer cells do not produce inflammation in the body, and without inflammation, the immune system can not respond effectively. Without inflammation, an adaptive immune response can not be activated.
- In some types of cancer, a bacterial infection is injected into the cancer-affected organ. The idea behind this treatment is that when the immune system notices the infection, it will notice the cancer and attack/destroy it too.
- If a tumor grows to one centimeter in size, the tumor can no longer self-sustain itself, thus it moves (i.e. metastasizes) somewhere new in the body.
- Cancer is more commonly seen in older people because it takes a long time for cancer cells to accumulate to the point of causing pain or illness, or to the point of being noticeable.
- Some cancers are caused by viruses (e.g. the hepatitis virus can cause liver cancer).