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Br J Cancer. 2004 Nov 29;91(11):1880-6.

Modulation of human Valpha24(+)Vbeta11(+) NKT cells by age, malignancy and conventional anticancer therapies.

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Department of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Immunotherapy strategies aimed at increasing human Valpha24(+)Vbeta11(+) natural killer T (NKT) cell numbers are currently a major focus. To provide further information towards the goal of NKT cell-based immunotherapy, we assessed the effects of age, cancer status and prior anticancer treatment on NKT cell numbers and their expansion capacity following alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer) stimulation. The percentage and absolute number of peripheral blood NKT cells was assessed in 40 healthy donors and 109 solid cancer patients (colorectal (n=33), breast (n=10), melanoma (n=17), lung (n=8), renal cell carcinoma (n=10), other cancers (n=31)). Responsiveness to alpha-GalCer stimulation was also assessed in 28 of the cancer patients and 37 of the healthy donors. Natural killer T cell numbers were significantly reduced in melanoma and breast cancer patients. While NKT numbers decreased with age in healthy donors, NKT cells were decreased in these cancer subgroups despite age and sex adjustments. Prior radiation treatment was shown to contribute to the observed reduction in melanoma patients. Although cancer patient NKT cells were significantly less responsive to alpha-GalCer stimulation, they remained capable of substantial expansion. Natural killer T cells are therefore modulated by age, malignancy and prior anticancer treatment; however, cancer patient NKT cells remain capable of responding to alpha-GalCer-based immenotherapies.

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