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Immune dysfunction and micrometastases in women with breast cancer

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Abstract

Cytokines produced by T lymphocytes are critical to the efficacy of a given immune response and dysregulation of immune responses may play a role in cancer progression. We assessed the intracellular cytokine profiles of T cells in the peripheral blood of women with breast cancer and explored the relationship of these responses with the presence of cancer in lymph nodes and bone marrow. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from 84 patients and 26 healthy volunteers were analyzed by 4-color flow cytometry for surface markers and for intracellular cytokines. Bone marrow samples from some of these patients were also collected and analyzed for the presence of epithelial cells (micrometastases) by flow cytometry. The percentages of both CD4+ and CD8+ cells producing type1 (IL-2, IFN-γ or TNF-α) and type 2 (IL-4) were significantly lower in patients with breast cancer compared to healthy controls. These results indicate a general immune dysfunction in these patients as opposed to a shift in the balance of type1 and type2 cells. These dysregulated T cell responses did not correlate with age, stage of disease, or nodal status. However, we did observe a correlation between number of micrometastases in the bone marrow and T cell responsiveness.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Campbell.

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Campbell, M.J., Scott, J., Maecker, H.T. et al. Immune dysfunction and micrometastases in women with breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 91, 163–171 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-004-7048-0

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