There have been a lot of convincing imposters of this iconic pop star, which is a natural segue to cancer (what?). I mean, it has something to do with why it is so hard for the immune system to get rid of cancers (huh???). Okay, forget about Michael Jackson, and let’s just talk about cancer immunology.
The immune system has an all important task of distinguising self from non-self. When carried out effectively, intruding viruses and bacteria are immediately identified and eliminated. There is some evidence that the immune system protects us from certain cancers as well, a phenomenon known as cancer immunosurveillance. This became apparent when certain cancers occured much more frequently in immunosuppressed patients (people whose immune systems were suppressed). As you might have guessed, cancers are imposters, and they can look very similar to normal cells (since they came from normal cells). They frequently have mutations, which may alter their outward appearance, making it easier for the immune system to “see” them. Actually, in many cancer patients, there are signs that the immune system does “see” the cancer, and there are even immune cells and antibodies against the cancer. So why is the cancer still there and growing? As it turns out, the cancer cells are way more sophisticated than primitive viruses and bacteria. They possess an arsenal of weapons that not only neutralize and disarm immune cells but also REPROGRAM the normal cells around it to protect and nurture the cancer! That’s a good segue back to Michael Jackson and his music video showing a bunch of zombies (“Thiller”).