Cancer of the nervous system is a major cause of disability and death in persons of all ages. Because the brain is critical in the control of all bodily function including physical, psychological, and cognitive realms, tumors may cause significant problems due to their location alone. Because the brain is a very sensitive organ, it is susceptible to damage associated with many treatments. In addition, the brain’s relative anatomic isolation from the rest of the body make treatments that are often effective in other types of cancer difficult. Safer and more effective therapies are clearly needed.
The brain is often thought of as isolated from the immune system-a condition known as “immunologic privilege”. The word privilege implies both benefit and exclusion. This is true to the extent that the brain, when exposed inappropriately to the immune system, suffers auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis. However, the brain requires oversight by the immune system to remain free of infectious diseases. In addition, the immune system plays an important role in early brain development, assisting in the remodeling that occurs with brain growth. These few examples shed some light on the many ways in which the brain and immune system interact in berth health and disease.
Cancer biologists have long dreamed of harnessing the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer through immune therapy. The experiments outlined in this proposal will explore a,novel-‘method of targeting brain tumors by harnessing the body’s immune system to eliminate tumors. Strategies like those proposed may augment current treatments.or even replace some of them in both safer and more effective ways.