Subverting Surveillance

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Science  08 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5498, pp. 1857-1859
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5498.1857e

Due largely to the vigilance of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, most malignant tumors regress before reaching detectable size. Terabe et al. suggest that the activities of some specialized lymphocytes, called natural killer T (NKT) cells, may undermine this mode of tumor surveillance by repressing the activity of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells.

Using a mouse tumor model, the authors observed that regression was permanent in mice lacking the receptor for interleukin-4 (IL-4), but not in mice deficient in IL-4 itself. Cytokine-inhibition studies were used to confirm that IL-13, which also uses the IL-4 receptor, was in fact the primary cytokine responsible for allowing the tumors to reappear. This effect could be recapitulated in mice deficient in CD1 proteins, which are required for the development of IL-13— producing NKT cells. These results suggest a role for these unusual lymphocytes in regulating tumor surveillance, and the authors propose that NKT cells could serve as a complementary target in cancer immunotherapy. — SJS

Nature Immunol.1, 515 (2000).

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