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Cancer Res. 2006 Dec 1;66(23):11441-6.

Hyporesponsiveness to natural killer T-cell ligand alpha-galactosylceramide in cancer-bearing state mediated by CD11b+ Gr-1+ cells producing nitric oxide.

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Department of Surgery, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


CD1d-restricted natural killer T (NKT) cells are a potential therapeutic target for cancer, for which several clinical trials have already been reported. NKT cells are specifically activated by a synthetic glycolipid, alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer). However, it is known that, in human cancer patients, NKT cells express a degree of hyporesponsiveness to alpha-GalCer. In this study, we have examined the mechanism by which hyporesponsiveness to alpha-GalCer can be induced. In cancer-bearing mice, alpha-GalCer-induced NKT cell expansion, cytokine production, cytotoxicity, and antimetastatic effect in vivo were all significantly impaired. In fact, alpha-GalCer could eliminate metastatic disease in naive animals but failed to protect cancer-bearing mice. CD11b(+) Gr-1(+) cells were particularly increased in cancer-bearing mice and were necessary and sufficient for the suppression of the alpha-GalCer response in a nitric oxide-mediated fashion. Administration of a retinoic acid to cancer-bearing mice reduced the population of CD11b(+) Gr-1(+) cells and effectively restored alpha-GalCer-induced protection. These results show a novel feature of NKT cell function in cancer. Furthermore, our data suggest a new strategy to enhance NKT cell-mediated anticancer immune responses by suppressing CD11b(+) Gr-1(+) cell functions.

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