As the body ages, the immune system can become weaker, so one doctor says eldercare should be tailored to fit the needs of seniors with certain illnesses.
Dr Joseph Lustgarten works at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. He examines the effects of aging on the immune system's ability to fight cancer and looks for ways to strengthen the antitumor immune response in older persons.
"The immune system of the elderly is very different from the young and it is difficult to extrapolate results obtained in the young, for use in the old," he says.
"Our job in the next few years is to figure out how to robust the old immune system by understanding, at a molecular level, its intrinsic defects to properly stimulate antitumor responses."
Vaccinations that can stimulate antitumor immune responses are those that combine multiple therapies. These need to balance the responses with induced autoimmune reactions.
The results of Dr Lustgarten's research can be found in the most recent issue of the medical journal Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy. His work was conducted on animal models.