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J Clin Invest. 2007 Dec;117(12):3833-45.

TNF-alpha is critical for antitumor but not antiviral T cell immunity in mice.

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  • 1The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


TNF-alpha antagonists are widely used in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, but their use is associated with reactivation of latent infections. This highlights the importance of TNF-alpha in immunity to certain pathogens and raises concerns that critical aspects of immune function are impaired in its absence. Unfortunately, the role of TNF-alpha in the regulation of T cell responses is clouded by a myriad of contradictory reports. Here, we show a role for TNF-alpha and its receptors, TNFR1 and TNFR2, specifically in antitumor immunity. TNF-alpha-deficient mice exhibited normal antiviral responses associated with strong inflammation. However, TNF-alpha/TNFR1-mediated signals on APCs and TNF-alpha/TNFR2 signals on T cells were critically required for effective priming, proliferation, and recruitment of tumor-specific T cells. Furthermore, in the absence of TNF-alpha signaling, tumor immune surveillance was severely abrogated. Finally, treatment with a CD40 agonist alone or in combination with TLR2 stimuli was able to rescue proliferation of TNF-alpha-deficient T cells. Therefore, TNF-alpha signaling may be required only for immune responses in conditions of limited immunostimulatory capacity, such as tumor surveillance. Importantly, these results suggest that prolonged continuous TNF-alpha blockade in patients may have long-term complications, including potential tumor development or progression.

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