, Volume 59, Issue 10, pp 1601-1606
Date: 13 Jul 2010

The escape of cancer from T lymphocytes: immunoselection of MHC class I loss variants harboring structural-irreversible “hard” lesions

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Abstract

The discovery of tumor antigens recognized by T lymphocytes has stimulated the development of a variety of cancer treatment protocols aimed at enhancing antitumor-specific T cell responses and tumor rejection. However, immunotherapy-mediated regression of established tumors and clearly positive clinical response to such treatment has not been achieved yet despite the induction of T cells directed against tumor antigens. The failure of the modern immunotherapy protocols can be explained by different tumor escape mechanisms that have been defined in various types of malignancy. The loss or downregulation of MHC class I antigens in tumor cells is one of the best analyzed mechanisms. In this review, we show experimental evidence obtained in our laboratory on human tumors and in a mouse cancer model suggesting that the molecular mechanism responsible for the MHC class I alteration in tumor cells might have a crucial impact on tumor recovery of normal H-2/HLA expression during the natural history of tumor development or after immunotherapy. When the preexisting molecular lesion underlying tumor MHC class I alteration is reversible (regulatory or soft), class I expression can be recovered leading to regression of tumor lesion. In contrast, if the HLA class I alteration is irreversible in nature (structural or hard), the lesion will progress killing the host. This is a new vision of the role of MHC class I alteration in tumors that can explain the failure of immunotherapy in a variety of different clinical protocols.

This paper is a Focussed Research Review based on a presentation given at the Ninth International Conference on Progress in Vaccination against Cancer (PIVAC 9), held in Sofia, Bulgaria, 8–10 October 2009.