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How the Immune System Works

Organs, tissues, and glands around your body coordinate the creation, education, and storage of key elements in your immune systems.

Lymph Nodes

Small glands located throughout the body that filter bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells, which are then destroyed by special white blood cells. Also the site where T cells are "educated" to destroy harmful invaders in your body


Thin tube about 4 to 6 inches long in the lower right abdomen. The exact function is unknown; one theory is that it acts as a storage site for "good" digestive bacteria

Thymus Gland

Small gland situated in the upper chest beneath the breastbone. Functions as the site where key immune cells (T cells) mature into cells that can fight infection and cancer


Organ located to the left of the stomach. Filters blood and provides storage for platelets and white blood cells. Also serves as a site where key immune cells (B cells) multiply in order to fight harmful invaders

Bone Marrow

Soft, sponge-like material found inside bones. Contains immature cells that divide to form more blood-forming stem cells, or mature into red blood cells, white blood cells (B cells and T cells), and platelets

Cancer Immunotherapy?

Cancer immunotherapy comes in a variety of forms, including targeted antibodies, cancer vaccines, adoptive cell transfer, tumor-infecting viruses, checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines, and adjuvants. Immunotherapies are a form of biotherapy (also called biologic therapy or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy) because they use materials from living organisms to fight disease.

Research That Saves Lives

What does it take to outsmart cancer? Research. We’ve invested more than $4.9 billion in cancer research since 1946, all to find more – and better – treatments, uncover factors that may cause cancer, and improve cancer patients’ quality of life.

Stay Away from Tobacco

Quitting tobacco is not easy, but it can be done. Whether you smoke cigarettes, use smokeless tobacco, or are trying to help a friend or loved one, you'll find the information you need in this section.

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