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Clin Cancer Res. 2006 Jul 1;12(13):3890-5.

Immune escape associated with functional defects in antigen-processing machinery in head and neck cancer.

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University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Department of Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Recent revival of interest in the role of immune surveillance in the pathogenesis and control of malignant diseases has focused attention on escape mechanisms used by tumor cells to evade immune recognition. Defects in the host's tumor antigen-specific immune responses and abnormalities in tumor cell expression of HLA class I molecules and tumor antigen are known to contribute to tumor progression. However, the mechanism(s) responsible for the lack of tumor cell recognition by functional HLA class I antigen-restricted, tumor antigen-specific CTLs despite expression of the restricting HLA class I allele and targeted tumor antigen by tumor cells remain(s) unexplained. In squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (SCCHN), this type of tumor escape is a rule rather than the exception. Here, we discuss evidence pointing to functional defects in the antigen-processing machinery as one mechanism underlying resistance of SCCHN cells to recognition and lysis by HLA class I antigen-restricted, tumor antigen-specific CTL. In addition, based on the restoration by IFN-gamma of SCCHN cell sensitivity to recognition by these CTL, we suggest strategies that may improve the clinical course of the disease by enhancing susceptibility of malignant cells to immune recognition.

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