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The challenge of fighting cancer lies in both stimulating and suppressing the immune system. That’s why researcher Steven Fiering approaches immunotherapy cancer treatment by analyzing the signals and behaviors cancer cells initiate. Listen and learn

  • What’s significant about the classic study of cancer and genetic change regarding contact inhibition,
  • How cancer tends to get more genetically unstable as it progresses,
  • Why the origin of cancer lies in stem cells rather than differentiated cells and what that means for immune cancer therapy, and
  • How he sees cancer’s effect as that of a sterile wound and how efforts by the immune system to fight cancer reflect that.

Steven N. Fiering is a professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine. In this interview, he and Richard explore numerous aspects of cancer behavior, from the unique genetic behavior of colorectal cancer to the labyrinth of cell differentiation and stem cells as cancer begins to grow.

He gives listeners a glimpse at the progression of cancer as a continuum of genetics and epigenetics alongside stress and inflammation. He addresses the turns that end in a benign tumor or continue into excessive divisions that form metastases and how he and other researchers understand these evolutions.

Ultimately, he helps define cancer by its interaction with the immune system and use of the body’s natural signals and systems. For example, he comments that as cancer cells begin proliferating and growing, they ignore a normal regulatory signal that dissuades such growth. Yet, eventually, their accumulation “makes them more recognizable, potentially by the immune system, at which point a tumor may begin to develop resistance mechanisms against the immune system.”

In other words, cancer cells invade and use the body’s own system to grow and evolve, but in a very particular way. But in understanding this peculiar way it engages only parts of the immune system, he hopes to find ways to trick the immune system into fighting back. Listen in to find out how.

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