The Human Immune System Basics

In a time of a Covid pandemic, and the rapid development of several life saving vaccines to address it, the world has seen the possibilities that vaccines offer. But none of this has come without something unexpected given the hundreds of thousands who have died; vaccine hesitancy. One of the primary drivers for the last 20+ years of oropharyngeal cancers has been a virus, HPV. In 2006 a vaccine was made available in the market that will prevent HPV infections in the future generation that gets vaccinated now as children. Here in our head and neck/oral cancer world there was also a huge opportunity, marred by some vocal anti vaccine voices that have held back, through disinformation, the full potential of this cancer preventing technology. OCF decided that we needed not just to argue with those in opposition to all vaccines, but to educate people with solid, science based information, so that they would feel more secure protecting their children while the pre exposure window existed to use the vaccine. This task means that first we have to ensure that individuals have a working understanding of the immune system itself, second that they understand how it protects us from various threats, and third what we can do to educate the immune system about threats it needs to recognize and protect us, pre infection….ie through the use of a vaccine. Hesitancy or uncertainty about vaccination can only be eliminated through a through understanding of it,  not arguing against people who want to fight through the use of disinformation campaigns and lies. Armed with facts, the decision to be vaccinated is much easier.

This first of three podcasts will give the listener a sound understanding of how our immune system works, how it defines what is a threat,  and what components of it are put into action to protect us. To do this well we have enlisted the help of OCF’s long time friend and colleague,  Dr. Ross Kerr from NYU to act as the OCF moderator for this episode, and he has chosen  Dr. David Levy as his well versed and informed partner in the discussion. Dr. Levy has been working in the area of immune system research for decades. It is a privilege to have both of these distinguished doctors on this podcast. We would like to mention that this podcast was produced by the Oral Cancer Foundation in partnership with our long-term partner in many endeavors, The American Academy of Oral Medicine.

Dr. David Levy


Dr Louis A Schneider Professorship in Molecular Pathology

Director, Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology Training Program

Faculty Liaison Director, Advanced Research Technologies

Department of Pathology

New York University School of Medicine