Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 503–513 | Cite as

Immunosuppressive myeloid-derived suppressor cells are increased in splenocytes from cancer patients

  • Kimberly R. Jordan
  • Puja Kapoor
  • Eric Spongberg
  • Richard P. Tobin
  • Dexiang Gao
  • Virginia F. Borges
  • Martin D. McCarter
Original Article


Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a heterogeneous population of myeloid cells that are increased in the peripheral blood of cancer patients and limit productive immune responses against tumors. Immunosuppressive MDSCs are well characterized in murine splenic tissue and are found at higher frequencies in spleens of tumor-bearing mice. However, no studies have yet analyzed these cells in parallel human spleens. We hypothesized that MDSCs would be increased in the spleens of human cancer patients, similar to tumor-bearing mice. We compared the frequency and function of MDSC subsets in dissociated human spleen from 16 patients with benign pancreatic cysts and 26 patients with a variety of cancers. We found that total MDSCs (Linneg CD11bpos CD33pos HLA-DRneg), granulocytic MDSCs (additional markers CD14neg CD15pos), and monocytic MDSCs (CD14pos CD15neg) were identified in human spleen. The monocytic subset was the most prominent in both spleen and peripheral blood and the granulocytic subset was expanded in the spleen relative to matched peripheral blood samples. Importantly, the frequency of CD15pos MDSCs in the spleen was increased in patients with cancer compared to patients with benign pancreatic cysts and was associated with a significantly increased risk of death and decreased overall survival. Finally, MDSCs isolated from the spleen suppressed T cell responses, demonstrating for the first time the functional capacity of human splenic MDSCs. These data suggest that the human spleen is a potential source of large quantities of cells with immunosuppressive function for future characterization and in-depth studies of human MDSCs.


MDSCs Human spleen Immunosuppression Cancer 



Carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester


Dimethyl sulfoxide


Hematoxylin and Eosin


Myeloid-derived suppressor cell


Mixed-lymphocyte reaction


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells


Phosphate-buffered saline



This work was supported by funding provided by the University of Colorado Cancer Center Support Grant (P30CA046934), American Cancer Society 2012 Roaring Fork Valley Postdoctoral Research Award, and the Conner Family Foundation Grant.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

262_2016_1953_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (572 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 571 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgery, School of MedicineUniversity of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical CampusAuroraUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado HospitalAuroraUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pediatrics, School of MedicineUniversity of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical CampusAuroraUSA
  4. 4.Division of Medical Oncology, School of MedicineUniversity of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical CampusAuroraUSA
  5. 5.Young Women’s Breast Cancer Translational ProgramUniversity of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical CampusAuroraUSA
  6. 6.University of Colorado Cancer CenterAuroraUSA

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