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Cancer Res. 2006 Sep 15;66(18):9290-8.

Human tumor-released microvesicles promote the differentiation of myeloid cells with transforming growth factor-beta-mediated suppressive activity on T lymphocytes.

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Unit of Immunotherapy of Human Tumors, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy.


Human tumors constitutively release endosome-derived microvesicles, transporting a broad array of biologically active molecules with potential modulatory effects on different immune cells. Here, we report the first evidence that tumor-released microvesicles alter myeloid cell function by impairing monocyte differentiation into dendritic cells and promoting the generation of a myeloid immunosuppressive cell subset. CD14+ monocytes isolated from healthy donors and differentiated with interleukin (IL)-4 and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor in the presence of tumor-derived microvesicles turned into HLA-DR(-/low) cells, retaining CD14 expression and failing to up-regulate costimulatory molecules, such as CD80 and CD86. These phenotypic changes were paralleled by a significant release of different cytokines, including IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), and a dose-dependent suppressive activity on activated T-cell-proliferation and cytolytic functions, which could be reversed by anti-TGF-beta-neutralizing antibodies. Microvesicles isolated from plasma of advanced melanoma patients, but not from healthy donors, mediated comparable effects on CD14+ monocytes, skewing their differentiation toward CD14+HLA-DR-/low cells with TGF-beta-mediated suppressive activity on T-cell-functions. Interestingly, a subset of TGF-beta-secreting CD14+HLA-DR- cells mediating suppressive activity on T lymphocytes was found to be significantly expanded in peripheral blood of melanoma patients compared with healthy donors. These data suggest the development in cancer patients of an immunosuppressive circuit by which tumors promote the generation of suppressive myeloid cells through the release of circulating microvesicles and without the need for cell-to-cell contact. Therapeutic interventions on the crucial steps of this pathway may contribute to restore tumor/immune system interactions favoring T-cell-mediated control of tumor growth in cancer patients.

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