The Cancer Immunity Cycle

The cancer immunity cycle describes the immune system’s response to cancer

The cancer immunity cycle is a scientific framework developed by Roche to unify our understanding of the immune system’s role in cancer. The cancer immunity cycle is a self-sustaining, 7-step process that describes how the immune system recognises and eradicates cancer.1

The cancer immunity cycle governs the antitumour response1


3 key T-cell activities are required for cancer immunity1-3

For anticancer immune responses to lead to effective killing of cancer cells, the cancer immunity cycle must be initiated and allowed to proceed. There are 3 key T-cell activities required:

  • Generate active, tumour-directed T cells (steps 1-3)
    • Tumourigenesis leads to the expression of neoantigens that can be captured by dendritic cells
    • Dendritic cells can present antigens to T cells, priming and activating cytotoxic T cells to attack cancer cells
  • Infiltrate tumour (steps 4-5)
    • Activated T cells travel to the tumour and infiltrate the tumour microenvironment
  • Kill tumour (steps 6-7)
    • Activated T cells recognise and kill target cancer cells
    • Dying cancer cells release additional cancer antigens, propagating the cancer immunity cycle

Disruption of any one or multiple steps of the cancer immunity cycle (ie, immune escape) can inhibit T-cell activity and ultimately result in unchecked tumourigenesis1

  1. Chen DS, Mellman I. Oncology meets immunology: the cancer-immunity cycle. Immunity. 2013;39:1-10. PMID: 23890059
  2. Chen DS, Mellman I. Elements of cancer immunity and the cancer-immune set point. Nature. 2017;541:321-330. PMID: 28102259
  3. Kim JM, Chen DS. Immune escape to PD-L1/PD-1 blockade: seven steps to success (or failure). Ann Oncol. 2016;27:1492-1504. PMID: 27207108

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