As discussed in this Review Series, it is now well accepted that components of both the innate and adaptive immune system can recognize and destroy nascent tumors. Therefore much effort is being put into the design of immunological approaches to treating cancer. However, the development of such approaches is hampered by the fact that tumors co-opt immune suppressive mechanisms to combat the host antitumor response.
A major challenge for the immune system is to recognize and eliminate cells undergoing carcinogenesis. Immune defense against tumors is complex. It can be mediated early by the innate immune system (i.e., phagocytes, NK cells, NKT cells, cytokines, and complement proteins) and later by the adaptive immune system (i.e., B cells and T cells). The eight articles in this Review series on tumor immunology discuss the mechanisms underlying immune surveillance of tumors, the regulation of carcinogenesis by immune inflammatory mediators, current approaches to controlling tumor growth through immunotherapy, and novel targets of immunotherapy.
The ability of the immune system to identify and destroy nascent tumors, and to thereby function as a primary defense against cancer, has been debated for many decades. Recent findings by a number of investigators in both mouse models of cancer and humans with cancer now offer compelling evidence that particular immune cell types, effector molecules, and pathways can sometimes collectively function as extrinsic tumor suppressor mechanisms. This work provides the basis for further study of natural immunity to cancer and for rational use of this information in the design of immunotherapies in combination with other conventional cancer treatments.
Jeremy B. Swann, Mark J. Smyth
Tumors arise from normal cells of the body through genetic mutation. Although such genetic mutation often leads to the expression of abnormal antigens, the immune system fails to respond effectively to these antigens; that is, it is tolerant of these antigens. This acquired state of tolerance must be overcome for cancer immunotherapy to succeed. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is one molecular mechanism that contributes to tumor-induced tolerance. IDO helps create a tolerogenic milieu in the tumor and the tumor-draining lymph nodes, both by direct suppression of T cells and enhancement of local Treg-mediated immunosuppression. It can also function as an antagonist to other activators of antitumor immunity. Therefore, strategies to block IDO might enhance the effectiveness of tumor immunotherapy.
David H. Munn, Andrew L. Mellor
Tumors require a constant influx of myelomonocytic cells to support the angiogenesis and stroma remodeling needed for their growth. This is mediated by tumor-derived factors, which cause sustained myelopoiesis and the accumulation and functional differentiation of myelomonocytic cells, most of which are macrophages, at the tumor site. An important side effect of the accumulation and functional differentiation of these cells is that they can induce lymphocyte dysfunction. A complete understanding of the complex interplay between neoplastic and myelomonocytic cells might offer novel targets for therapeutic intervention aimed at depriving tumor cells of important growth support and enhancing the antitumor immune response.
Antonio Sica, Vincenzo Bronte
Tumors express antigens that should induce immune-mediated rejection, but spontaneous rejection of established tumors is rare. Recent work demonstrates that one reason for the lack of tumor rejection is that tumors actively defeat host immunity. This concept forces us to rethink current approaches to harnessing potent, specific host immunity to battle cancer, most of which are based on the paradigm that inducing more antitumor immune cells alone is therapeutic. However, as I discuss in this Personal Perspective, a newer paradigm predicts that reducing tumor-driven immune suppression will be clinically beneficial. CD4+CD25+ Tregs are one mechanism of tumor-driven immune evasion that provide prototypical targets for testing novel anticancer treatment strategies within the newer paradigm.
Tyler J. Curiel
It has been established that cancer can be promoted and/or exacerbated by inflammation and infections. Indeed, chronic inflammation orchestrates a tumor-supporting microenvironment that is an indispensable participant in the neoplastic process. The mechanisms that link infection, innate immunity, inflammation, and cancer are being unraveled at a fast pace. Important components in this linkage are the cytokines produced by activated innate immune cells that stimulate tumor growth and progression. In addition, soluble mediators produced by cancer cells recruit and activate inflammatory cells, which further stimulate tumor progression. However, inflammatory cells also produce cytokines that can limit tumor growth. Here we provide an overview of the current understanding of the role of inflammation-induced cytokines in tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.
Wan-Wan Lin, Michael Karin
In vertebrates, the TLRs are a family of specialized immune receptors that induce protective immune responses when they detect highly conserved pathogen-expressed molecules. Synthetic agonists for several TLRs, including TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, TLR8, and TLR9, have been or are being developed for the treatment of cancer. TLR9 detects the unmethylated CpG dinucleotides prevalent in bacterial and viral DNA but not in vertebrate genomes. As discussed in this Review, short synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides containing these immune stimulatory CpG motifs activate TLR9 in vitro and in vivo, inducing innate and adaptive immunity, and are currently being tested in multiple phase II and phase III human clinical trials as adjuvants to cancer vaccines and in combination with conventional chemotherapy and other therapies.
Arthur M. Krieg
Because of the large preexisting antigenic load and immunosuppressive environment within a tumor, inducing therapeutically useful antitumor immunity in cancer patients requires the development of powerful vaccination protocols. An approach gaining increasing popularity in the tumor vaccine field is to immunize cancer patients with their own DCs loaded ex vivo with tumor antigens. The underlying premise of this approach is that the efficiency and control over the vaccination process provided by ex vivo manipulation of the DCs generates an optimally potent APC and a superior method for stimulating antitumor immunity in vivo compared with the more conventional direct vaccination methods, offsetting the added cost and complexity associated with this form of customized cell therapy.
The transfusion of T cells, also called adoptive T cell therapy, is an effective treatment for viral infections and has induced regression of cancer in early-stage clinical trials. However, recent advances in cellular immunology and tumor biology are guiding new approaches to adoptive T cell therapy. For example, use of engineered T cells is being tested as a strategy to improve the functions of effector and memory T cells, and manipulation of the host to overcome immunotoxic effects in the tumor microenvironment has led to promising results in early-stage clinical trials. Challenges that face the field and must be addressed before adoptive T cell therapy can be translated into routine clinical practice are discussed.
Carl H. June