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Cancer. 2004 Jun 1;100(11):2281-91.

The role of Fas ligand and transforming growth factor beta in tumor progression: molecular mechanisms of immune privilege via Fas-mediated apoptosis and potential targets for cancer therapy.

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Department of Surgical Oncology, Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan.


Despite the fact that expression of Fas ligand (FasL) in cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and in natural killer (NK) cells plays an important role in Fas-mediated tumor killing, During tumor progression FasL-expressing tumor cells are involved in counterattacking to kill tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Soluble FasL levels also increase with tumor progression in solid tumors, and this increase inhibits Fas-mediated tumor killing by CTLs and NK cells. The increased expression of FasL in tumor cells is associated with decreased expression of Fas; and the promoter region of the FASL gene is regulated by transcription factors, such as neuronal factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) and AP-1, in the tumor microenvironment. Although the ratio of FasL expression to Fas expression in tumor cells is not strongly related to the induction of apoptosis in TILs, increased expression of FasL is associated with decreased Fas levels in tumor cells that can escape immune surveillance and facilitate tumor progression and metastasis. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) is a potent growth inhibitor and has tumor-suppressing activity in the early phases of carcinogenesis. During subsequent tumor progression, the increased secretion of TGF-beta by both tumor cells and, in a paracrine fashion, stromal cells, is involved in the enhancement of tumor invasion and metastasis accompanied by immunosuppression. Herein, the authors review the clinical significance of FasL and TGF-beta expression patterns as features of immune privilege accompanying tumor progression in the tumor microenvironment. Potential strategies for identifying which molecules can serve as targets for effective antitumor therapy also are discussed.

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