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J Neurosurg. 2001 Dec;95(6):1012-9.

Site-specific immune response to implanted gliomas.

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Surgical Neurology and Neuroimmunology Branches, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1414, USA.



Immunotherapy for glioblastoma has been uniformly ineffective. The immunological environment of the brain, with its low expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules and limited access for inflammatory cells and humoral immune effectors due to the blood-brain barrier (BBB), may contribute to the failure of immunotherapy. The authors hypothesize that brain tumors are protected from immune surveillance by an intact BBB at early stages of development. To investigate the immunological characteristics of early tumor growth, the authors compared the host response to a glioma implanted into the brain and into subcutaneous tissue.


Samples of tumors growing in the brain or subcutaneously in rats were obtained for 7 consecutive days and were examined immunohistochemically for MHC Class I & II molecules, and for CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte markers. Additionally, B7-1 costimulatory molecule expression and lymphocyte-specific apoptosis were examined.


On Days 3 and 4 after implantation, brain tumors displayed significantly lower MHC Class II expression and lymphocytic infiltration (p < 0.05). After Day 5, however, no differences were detected. The MHC Class II expressing cells within the brain tumors appeared to be infiltrating microglia. Minimal B7-1 expression combined with lymphocyte-specific apoptosis were detected in both brain and subcutaneous tumors. Low MHC Class II expression and low lymphocytic infiltration at early time points indicate the importance of the immunologically privileged status of the brain during early tumor growth. These characteristics disappeared at later time points, possibly because the increasing perturbation of the BBB alters the specific immunological environment of the brain. The lack of B7-1 expression combined with lymphocyte apoptosis indicates clonal anergy of glioma-infiltrating lymphocytes regardless of implantation site.

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