The Three Es of Cancer Immunoediting

Annual Review of Immunology

Vol. 22:329-360 (Volume publication date 23 April 2004)
First posted online on October 15, 2003


After a century of controversy, the notion that the immune system regulates cancer development is experiencing a new resurgence. An overwhelming amount of data from animal models—together with compelling data from human patients—indicate that a functional cancer immunosurveillance process indeed exists that acts as an extrinsic tumor suppressor. However, it has also become clear that the immune system can facilitate tumor progression, at least in part, by sculpting the immunogenic phenotype of tumors as they develop. The recognition that immunity plays a dual role in the complex interactions between tumors and the host prompted a refinement of the cancer immunosurveillance hypothesis into one termed “cancer immunoediting.” In this review, we summarize the history of the cancer immunosurveillance controversy and discuss its resolution and evolution into the three Es of cancer immunoediting—elimination, equilibrium, and escape.