Infiltrating inflammatory cells are highly prevalent within the tumor microenvironment and mediate many processes associated with tumor progression; however, the contribution of specific populations remains unclear. For example, the nature and function of tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs) in the cancer microenvironment is largely unknown. The goal of this study was to provide a phenotypic and functional characterization of TANs in surgically resected lung cancer patients. We found that TANs constituted 5%–25% of cells isolated from the digested human lung tumors. Compared with blood neutrophils, TANs displayed an activated phenotype (CD62LloCD54hi) with a distinct repertoire of chemokine receptors that included CCR5, CCR7, CXCR3, and CXCR4. TANs produced substantial quantities of the proinflammatory factors MCP-1, IL-8, MIP-1α, and IL-6, as well as the antiinflammatory IL-1R antagonist. Functionally, both TANs and neutrophils isolated from distant nonmalignant lung tissue were able to stimulate T cell proliferation and IFN-γ release. Cross-talk between TANs and activated T cells led to substantial upregulation of CD54, CD86, OX40L, and 4-1BBL costimulatory molecules on the neutrophil surface, which bolstered T cell proliferation in a positive-feedback loop. Together our results demonstrate that in the earliest stages of lung cancer, TANs are not immunosuppressive, but rather stimulate T cell responses.
Evgeniy B. Eruslanov, Pratik S. Bhojnagarwala, Jon G. Quatromoni, Tom Li Stephen, Anjana Ranganathan, Charuhas Deshpande, Tatiana Akimova, Anil Vachani, Leslie Litzky, Wayne W. Hancock, José R. Conejo-Garcia, Michael Feldman, Steven M. Albelda, Sunil Singhal