Cancer heterogeneity, a hallmark enabling clonal survival and therapy resistance, is shaped by active immune responses. Antigen-specific T cells can control cancer, as revealed clinically by immunotherapeutics such as adoptive T-cell transfer and checkpoint blockade. The host immune system is thus a powerful tool that, if better harnessed, could significantly enhance the efficacy of cytotoxic therapy and improve outcomes for cancer sufferers. To realize this vision, however, a number of research frontiers must be tackled. These include developing strategies for neutralizing tumor-promoting inflammation, broadening T-cell repertoires (via vaccination), and elucidating the mechanisms by which immune cells organize tumor microenvironments to regulate T-cell activity. Such efforts will pave the way for identifying new targets for combination therapies that overcome resistance to current treatments and promote long-term cancer control.
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