Incentives to Repair the Aged Immune System

As immune therapies are developed further, researchers will be increasingly incentivized to find ways to repair and restore age-damaged immune systems to youthful effectiveness. Most work on immune therapy is aimed at cancer and other diseases of the old, after all: "Elderly cancer patients need a combination of treatments tailor-made to their specific needs to successfully combat the disease. The challenge is to boost their immune response to cancer vaccines, because like the rest of our organs, our immune system ages and gradually becomes less efficient as we get older. ... Aging of the immune system coincides with higher rates of cancer in the elderly. There is a wealth of research on the effects of harnessing the power of the body's own immune defences to recognize and destroy tumors (immunotherapy), yet very little of this work takes into account the effects of aging on the immune system. Older individuals do not respond to vaccine therapy as well as younger adults. ... The immune system of the elderly is very different from the young and it is difficult to extrapolate results obtained in the young, for use in the old. Our job in the next few years is to figure out how to robust the old immune system by understanding, at a molecular level, its intrinsic defects to properly stimulate antitumor responses. Only then can we successfully customize tumor vaccines to be effective for the treatment of tumors in the old."

Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008113301.htm

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