Send to

Choose Destination
Int J Oncol. 2008 Mar;32(3):527-35.

Inhibition of T cell and natural killer cell function by adenosine and its contribution to immune evasion by tumor cells (Review).

Author information

Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 1X5, Canada.


The resistance of many human cancers to immune-based therapies, including adoptive immunotherapy and the administration of therapeutic cancer vaccines, has been attributed to tumor-associated immune suppression, due in part to immunosuppressive molecules located within the tumor microenvironment. Adenosine is a purine nucleoside found within the interstitial fluid of solid tumors at concentrations that are able to inhibit cell-mediated immune responses to tumor cells. It is well established that extracellular adenosine inhibits T lymphocyte activation and effector function, including T cell adhesion to tumor cells and cytotoxic activity, by signaling primarily through A2a and A3 adenosine receptors on the surface of T cells. Importantly, A2a adenosine receptor-deficient mice exhibit enhanced anti-tumor immune responses by CD8+ T cells, as well as a dramatic reduction in the growth of experimental tumors in comparison to wild-type controls. A2a adenosine receptor signaling has also been implicated in adenosine-mediated inhibition of cytokine production and cytotoxic activity by activated natural killer (NK) cells, although the process of NK cell granule exocytosis is apparently suppressed via a distinct and as yet uncharacterized adenosine receptor. In this report, we review the evidence that adenosine is a potent inhibitor of cellular immune responses and may therefore be a major barrier to the successful immunotherapy of human carcinomas. The signaling pathways through which adenosine exerts its inhibitory effects on cell-mediated immune responses are also discussed. The accumulated evidence suggests that the effectiveness of immune-based therapies for solid tumors may be enhanced by selective antagonism of the adenosine receptor subtypes through which adenosine inhibits the anti-tumor activity of T lymphocytes and NK cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Spandidos Publications
Loading ...
Support Center