Making First Contact

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Science  19 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5653, pp. 2034
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5653.2034d

The notion that most malignant and premalignant cells are detected and destroyed by the immune system before tumors can become established has managed to endure despite controversy and relatively little direct evidence. One instance where early immune surveillance may operate is in the disorder preneoplastic gammopathy (MGUS). In this condition, individuals accumulate transformed plasma B cells in the bone marrow, but infrequently progress to the corresponding malignant condition, multiple myeloma.

Dhodapkar et al. observed that T cells from MGUS patients reacted readily to antigens derived from the patients' own premalignant cells but that equivalent tumor-specific responses could not be elicited from T cells from multiple myeloma patients. The MGUS-reactive T cells predominated in the bone marrow and produced interferon-γ in response to antigen-presenting cells loaded with MGUS cell extracts as well as to autologous plasma cells. The corresponding loss of these reactive bone marrow T cells with the development of clinical malignancy suggests that, under normal circumstances, immune detection of premalignant events may be important in preventing tumor development. — SJS

J. Exp. Med. 198, 1753 (2003).

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