My wife and I used to watch House, M.D. starring Hugh Laurie, in which he was a cranky doctor who happened to be a Holmesian genius in diagnosing rare or mysterious diseases. We are fortunate to have doctors who have much better bedside manner, but as an entertainment option, House was a lot of fun. One of the running gags for fans of the show is that the mystery disease of the week is never lupus, except for the one and only time that it was. My fond memories of this show got me to thinking about how difficult it is to diagnose lupus, and about other autoimmune diseases that still remain mysterious and challenging to treat. I decided to find out how modern medicine is approaching this continuing health issue.
With a background in both immunology and cancer biology, I’ve always had a fascination with the interplay between the body’s immune system and any tumors that might pop up. Originally, it made sense that the immune system would actively seek out and destroy cancerous cells, but the emerging consensus is that the interactions between cancers and host immunity is far more complex. In addition to growing new blood vessels and reprogramming metabolic processes, there appears to be some imbalance between avoiding immune cells while also promoting tumor-infiltrating inflammatory cells to promote its growth. 1 (Figure 1) Trying to dissect this apparent contradictory relationship between tumors and host immunity remains a hot topic.