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Innate immunity has a double role in cancer: it can protect against tumor formation, yet also induce cancer to grow.
Specific innate immune cell types can provide surveillance to detect cancer and alert the immune system to destroy it. While in other circumstances, innate immune cells can also induce tumors to become malignant and cause tumor outgrowth. The inflammatory response that is turned on by innate immune cells can change the tissue surrounding a tumor to create an environment that promotes tumor growth. The reasons why innate immunity is, in one instance, a great weapon against cancer, while at another times, a helpmate to cancer growth, are still unknown. The CIIID will have a major impact in uncovering the nuances of how innate immunity both promotes and deters cancer growth. By understanding the circumstances that control the tipping point of when innate immunity is a cancer promoter or preventative, CIIID research has the potential to develop new cancer therapeutics that can target the innate immunity and push this response to actively suppress cancer rather than promote it. Innate immune therapeutics developed at the CIIID also have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the new cancer vaccines that are showing moderate success today in cancer clinics.