The role of CD8+ T cells in immune responses to colorectal cancer
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Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are essential effectors of the cell-mediated immune response. The ability of CTL to specifically recognise and lyse malignant cells expressing the relevant surface antigens under optimal in vitro conditions justifies attempts to boost their number and activity through various forms of immunotherapy. Considering the high prevalence of colorectal cancer and poor survival rates for patients with advanced-stage disease, the development of new protocols based on CTL stimulation represents a genuine and promising treatment option. Significant advances in recombinant DNA technology and molecular biology have led to the identification of a number of tumour-associated antigens (TAA). These have served as vaccine constituents and/or stimuli for obtaining CTL used for adoptive immunotherapy after in vitro stimulation and expansion. The present review describes the properties and functions of CTL as effectors of the immune response against tumours, and summarises the known TAA recognised by CTL and the current status of CTL-related immunotherapeutic interventions in colorectal cancer patients.
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