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Cytotoxic T cells and cancer in HIV patients
May 3, 2003

If cytotoxic T cells attack viruses and tumor antigens, why do HIV patients have increased cancers?

Response from Dr. Dezube

For the general reader of this forum, a word of explanation is in order. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes are a very important part of the immune system of both HIV+ and HIV- folks. As the query suggests, these cells are involved with helping individuals fight off viruses and tumors. HIV patients develop many of their cancers due to impaired immune function. Although HIV infected patients do indeed have cytotoxic T lymphocytes, these cells do not necessarily function as well in HIV positive folks, as they do in HIV negative persons.

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