Original Article

Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 813-821

First online:

Regulatory T cells in colorectal cancer patients suppress anti-tumor immune activity in a COX-2 dependent manner

  • Sheraz YaqubAffiliated withThe Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of OsloCentre for Molecular Medicine Norway, Nordic EMBL Partnership, University of Oslo
  • , Karen HenjumAffiliated withThe Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of OsloCentre for Molecular Medicine Norway, Nordic EMBL Partnership, University of OsloDepartment of Gastroenterological Surgery, Ullevaal University Hospital
  • , Milada MahicAffiliated withThe Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of OsloCentre for Molecular Medicine Norway, Nordic EMBL Partnership, University of Oslo
  • , Frode L. JahnsenAffiliated withThe Pathology Clinic, Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet Medical Center
  • , Einar M. AandahlAffiliated withThe Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of OsloCentre for Molecular Medicine Norway, Nordic EMBL Partnership, University of Oslo
  • , Bjørn A. BjørnbethAffiliated withDepartment of Gastroenterological Surgery, Ullevaal University Hospital
  • , Kjetil TaskénAffiliated withThe Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of OsloCentre for Molecular Medicine Norway, Nordic EMBL Partnership, University of Oslo Email author 

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Abstract

Objective

Naturally occurring regulatory T (TR) cells suppress autoreactive T cells whereas adaptive TR cells, induced in the periphery, play an important role in chronic viral diseases and cancer. Several studies indicate that cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors prevent cancer development of colon adenomas and delay disease progression in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). We have shown that adaptive TR cells express COX-2 and produce PGE2 that suppress effector T cells in a manner that is reversed by COX-inhibitors.

Methods and results

Here we demonstrate that CRC patients have elevated levels of PGE2 in peripheral blood, and CRC tissue samples and draining lymph nodes display increased numbers of FOXP3+ TR cells. Depletion of TR cells from PBMC enhanced anti-tumor T-cell responses to peptides from carcinoembryonic antigen. Furthermore, the COX inhibitor indomethacin and the PKA type I antagonist Rp-8-Br-cAMPS significantly improved the anti-tumor immune activity.

Conclusion

We suggest that adaptive TR cells contribute to an immunosuppressive microenvironment in CRC and inhibit effector T cells by a COX-2–PGE2-dependent mechanism and thereby facilitate tumor growth. Therapeutic strategies targeting TR cells and the PGE2–cAMP pathway may be interesting to pursue to enhance anti-tumor immune activity in CRC patients.

Keywords

Human Colorectal cancer Regulatory T cells COX-2 PGE2