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Blood. 2004 Mar 1;103(5):1755-62. Epub 2003 Nov 6.

Immunosuppressive regulatory T cells are abundant in the reactive lymphocytes of Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


Although immunosuppression has long been recognized in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), the underlying basis for the lack of an effective immune response against the tumor remains unclear. The aim was to test our hypothesis that regulatory T cells dominate involved lymph nodes. The approach was to assay CD4+ T-cell function in HL-infiltrating lymphocytes (HLILs) and paired peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 24 patients. Strikingly, unlike PBMCs, HLILs were anergic to stimulation with mitogen, primary, or recall antigens, mounting no proliferative responses and only rare T-helper 1 (Th1) or Th2 cytokine responses. Mixing paired HLILs and PBMCs showed the anergic effect was dominant and suppressed PBMC responses. Furthermore, flow cytometry demonstrated that HLILs contained large populations of both interleukin-10 (IL-10)-secreting T-regulatory 1 (Tr1) and CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. We found evidence for 3 mechanisms of action implicated in the suppressive functions of regulatory T cells: the inhibition of PBMCs by HLILs was ameliorated by neutralizing IL-10, by preventing cell-to-cell contact, and by blocking anti-cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (anti-CTLA-4). Thus, HLILs are highly enriched for regulatory T cells, which induce a profoundly immunosuppressive environment and so provide an explanation for the ineffective immune clearance of Hodgkin-Reed Sternberg cells.

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