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Dynamics of T-cell infiltration during the course of ovarian cancer: The gradual shift from a Th17 effector cell response to a predominant infiltration by regulatory T cells.
Abstracts that were granted an exception in accordance with ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy are designated with a caret symbol (^).
Background: Ovarian cancer is diagnosed in more than 190,000 new patients every year and is known to have the highest mortality rate among gynaecologic cancers. The type of immune cells that are present within the tumor microenvironment can play a crucial role in the survival of patients. However, little is known about the dynamics of the tumor-infiltrating immune cells during disease progression. Methods: We studied the immune cells infiltrating the tumor tissue of ovarian cancer patients at different stages of disease. We analysed the patterns of T lymphocytes in fresh tumor tissue as well as blood samples of 44 newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients by flow cytometry. To evaluate whether regulatory T cells (Tregs) develop in situ or migrate to tumor tissue, we measured a concentration of chemokine CCL22 in tumor cell culture supernatants. We also determined the expression of CCR4 on circulating as well as tumor-infiltrating Tregs by flow cytometry. Results: The early stages of development of ovarian carcinomas were characterized by a strong Th17 immune response, whereas in stage II patients, recruitment of high numbers of Th1 cells was observed. In disseminated tumors (stage III-IV), we detected a dominant population of Helios+ activated regulatory T cells along with high numbers of macrophages and immature myeloid dendritic cells. Tumor-infiltrating Tregs had markedly lower expression of CCR4 than circulating Tregs, and the numbers of tumor-infiltrating Tregs significantly correlated with the levels of CCL22 in ovarian tumor cell culture supernatants, suggesting their recruitment via a CCR4/CCL22 interaction. CCL22 was mainly produced by tumor cells, macrophages and mDCs in the primary ovarian tumors, and its expression markedly increased in response to IFNgamma. Conclusions: Taken together, the specific recruitment of Tregs, probably triggered by inflammatory stimuli, leads to a significant immune suppression in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer.