Considerations for successful cancer immunotherapy in aged hosts

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Abstract

Improvements in understanding cancer immunopathogenesis have now led to unprecedented successes in immunotherapy to treat numerous cancers. Although aging is the most important risk factor for cancer, most pre-clinical cancer immunotherapy studies are undertaken in young hosts. This review covers age-related immune changes as they affect cancer immune surveillance, immunopathogenesis and immune therapy responses. Declining T cell function with age can impede efficacy of age-related cancer immunotherapies, but examples of successful approaches to breach this barrier have been reported. It is further recognized now that immune functions with age do not simply decline, but that they change in potentially detrimental ways. For example, detrimental immune cell populations can become predominant during aging (notably pro-inflammatory cells), the prevalence or function of suppressive cells can increase (notably myeloid derived suppressor cells), drugs can have age-specific effects on immune cells, and attributes of the aged microenvironment can impede or subvert immunity. Key advances in these and related areas will be reviewed as they pertain to cancer immunotherapy in the aged, and areas requiring additional study and some speculations on future research directions will be addressed. We prefer the term Age Related Immune Dysfunction (ARID) as most encompassing the totality of age-associated immune changes.

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