Malignant tumors express antigens that may stimulate and serve as targets for antitumor immunity. Virally induced tumors usually contain integrated proviral genomes in their cellular genomes and often express viral genome—encoded proteins that may stimulate specific host immune responses. Antigens unique to individual tumors that stimulate specific rejection of transplanted tumors have been demonstrated only in experimental animals. Other tumor antigens that potentially can stimulate immune responses are shared by different tumors. These include products of mutated or rearranged oncogenes or tumor-suppressor genes. Tumors may also overexpress tissue differentiation antigens or embryonic antigens, which also have the potential to be recognized by the immune system. The recent identification of tumor antigens recognized by cytotoxic T cells opens up new possibilities for constructing chemically defined antigens for specific immunotherapy. Treatment of malignant tumors in humans by immunologic approaches, although theoretically attractive, has not yet succeeded on a large scale. Important progress in immunotherapy of cancer is emerging with several different treatment modalities.
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