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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Sep 15;11(18):6713-21.

Gemcitabine selectively eliminates splenic Gr-1+/CD11b+ myeloid suppressor cells in tumor-bearing animals and enhances antitumor immune activity.

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Thoracic Oncology Research Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Myeloid suppressor (Gr-1(+)/CD11b(+)) cells accumulate in the spleens of tumor-bearing mice where they contribute to immunosuppression by inhibiting the function of CD8(+) T cells and by promoting tumor angiogenesis. Elimination of these myeloid suppressor cells may thus significantly improve antitumor responses and enhance effects of cancer immunotherapy, although to date few practical options exist.


The effect of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine on the number of (Gr-1(+)/CD11b(+)) cells in the spleens of animals bearing large tumors derived from five cancer lines grown in both C57Bl/6 and BALB/c mice was analyzed. Suppressive activity of splenocytes from gemcitabine-treated and control animals was measured in natural killer (NK) cell lysis and Winn assays. The impact of myeloid suppressor cell activity was determined in an immunogene therapy model using an adenovirus expressing IFN-beta.


This study shows that the chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine, given at a dose similar to the equivalent dose used in patients, was able to dramatically and specifically reduce the number of myeloid suppressor cells found in the spleens of animals bearing large tumors with no significant reductions in CD4(+) T cells, CD8(+) T cells, NK cells, macrophages, or B cells. The loss of myeloid suppressor cells was accompanied by an increase in the antitumor activity of CD8(+) T cells and activated NK cells. Combining gemcitabine with cytokine immunogene therapy using IFN-beta markedly enhanced antitumor efficacy.


These results suggest that gemcitabine may be a practical strategy for the reduction of myeloid suppressor cells and should be evaluated in conjunction with a variety of immunotherapy approaches.

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