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J Immunother. 2005 Mar-Apr;28(2):120-8.

CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells, immunotherapy of cancer, and interleukin-2.

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  • 1Surgery Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


CD4+CD25+ T regulatory (Treg) cells control immunologic tolerance to self-antigens and play a role in suppressing antitumor immune responses, but the mechanism of suppression in vivo remains uncertain. Recently, signaling through the high-affinity interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor has been shown to be critical for Treg cell differentiation and survival in vivo. Mice deficient in IL-2 or its receptor (CD25 or CD122) or deficient in downstream signaling molecules, including JAK-3 and STAT-5, do not develop a stable population of Treg cells and subsequently acquire lymphoproliferative disease and autoimmunity. in vitro, IL-2 is required to expand Treg cells and to induce their suppressive characteristics. Conversely, IL-2-based regimens can activate cellular antitumor immunity and are the mainstay of immunotherapies directed against melanoma and kidney cancers. Given the seemingly disparate effects of IL-2, the authors discuss the possibility that IL-2 may not be the optimal T-cell growth factor in vivo, but rather an inducer of self-tolerance. The authors propose that other gamma c-signaling cytokines, including IL-15, may be alternative choices for the immunotherapy of cancer.

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