Paraneoplastic Antibodies

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson briefly describe paraneoplastic syndrome. Then you'll learn about the concept of paraneoplastic antibodies, how they arise, and what they do in cases of cancer.

What Is Paraneoplastic Syndrome?

We all dread the word 'cancer' because we associate pain and difficult treatment due to a tumor. But tumor's aren't always the direct cause of cancer-related problems. Say you know someone who has lung cancer that has not spread anywhere outside of the lungs. Is it possible for them to suffer from serious neurological problems as a result? In fact, it is.

Paraneoplastic syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms that signify paraneoplasia, a disturbance of the human body caused by a cancer's presence and stemming from one of two things:

  1. The production of some sort of substance by the cancer, like a hormone
  2. The body's immunological response to the cancer's presence

Paraneoplasia is NOT as a result of things like:

  • The cancer's invasion of its surrounding tissues
  • Metastasis (spread of the cancer's cells around the body)
  • Infection of the cancer
  • Treatment of the cancer


Your immune system is a collection of cells, tissues, organs, and proteins. They are the defense system of your body. And like a member of the U.S. Department of Defense, they swear an oath to defend you against all enemies foreign and domestic. Foreign enemies like viruses and bacteria, and domestic enemies like cancer cells.

The body's immune system produces proteins called antibodies that latch onto these enemies and either:

  • Destroy them directly, like bullets
  • Act as signaling markers for other cells to come and destroy them

If an antibody attaches itself to something, that something gets damaged or destroyed in one way or another.

Paraneoplastic Antibodies

In paraneoplastic syndrome something goes wrong, and no one knows for sure what or how. Antibodies can become paraneoplastic antibodies, or more technically paraneoplastic autoantibodies since these antibodies are directed against the self ('auto-'). Most of the time these autoantibodies attack the nervous system and are thus paraneoplastic antineural autoantibodies. 'Anti-' means against and '-neural' implies the nervous system.

One hypothesis for why this occurs goes something like this:

The cancer cells express a type of molecule called an antigen, or identifying marker that the immune system can recognize as foreign or self. It's like different colored shirts on different paintball teams. If it's foreign, the immune system (and antibodies) shoot it. If it's self (wearing the same colored shirt), the immune system leaves it alone.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account