Malignant brain tumors continue to represent a devastating diagnosis with no real chance for cure. Despite an increasing list of potential salvage therapies, standard-of-care for these patients has not changed in over a decade. Immunotherapy has been seen as an exciting option, with the potential to offer specific and long lasting tumor clearance. The “gold standard” in immunotherapy has been the development of a tumor-specific CD8 T cell response to potentiate tumor clearance and immunological memory. While many advances have been made in the field of immunotherapy, few therapies have seen true success. Many of the same principles used to develop immunotherapy in tumors of the peripheral organs have been applied to brain tumor immunotherapy. The immune-specialized nature of the brain should call into question whether this approach is appropriate. Recent results from our own experiments require a rethinking of current dogma. Perhaps a CD8 T cell response is not sufficient for an organ as immunologically unique as the brain. Examination of previously elucidated principles of the brain’s immune-specialized status and known immunological preferences should generate discussion and experimentation to address the failure of current therapies.
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