The import of the immune system to cancer survival is paramount. Immune effector cells are intimately involved in the patient's response to cancer. People with decreased immune function develop cancer more frequently. In the early stages of solid organ malignancies, surgery can potentially be curative. Surgical intervention, in and of itself, is immunosuppressive. Surgical resections are traditionally performed through large incisions. Technologic advances have allowed minimally invasive surgery (MIS) to evolve to the point it is now being used for cancer treatment. Recent minimally invasive series have reported improved survival and recurrence rates, as compared with historical data. We hypothesized that outcome differences for cancer patients undergoing open surgery vs. MIS are due to differential inhibition of immune effector cell function, in response to the different surgical stimulus. This increased immunosuppression after open surgery could potentially inhibit immune effector cell tumor surveillance as well as inhibit scavenging of any residual or micrometastatic disease or of tumor cells shed at the time of the operation. The less immunosuppressive MIS may leave immune function above a threshold level where remaining tumor is cleared. This difference would lead to less recurrence and to survival advantages. A deeper understanding of the integral components of the immune response to surgery would open the door for immunomodulation strategies and be of great clinical utility in guiding neoadjuvant, surgical, or adjuvant therapeutic decisions.