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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2008 Nov;57(11):1679-83. doi: 10.1007/s00262-008-0495-4. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

A novel immunoregulatory axis of NKT cell subsets regulating tumor immunity.

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Molecular Immunogenetics and Vaccine Research Section, Vaccine Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


There are many mechanisms that regulate and dampen the immune response to cancers, including several types of regulatory T cells. Besides the T reg cell, we have identified another immunoregulatory circuit initiated by NKT cells that produce IL-13 in response to tumor growth and this IL-13 then induces myeloid cells to make TGF-beta that inhibits cytotoxic T cell-mediated tumor immunosurveillance in several mouse tumor models. This finding created a paradox in the role of NKT cells in tumor immunity, in that they can also contribute to protection. We resolve this paradox by the finding that the suppressive NKT cell is a type II NKT cell that lacks the canonical invariant T cell receptor, whereas the protective cell is a type I NKT cell that expresses the invariant receptor. Further, we see that these two subsets of NKT cells counter-regulate each other, defining a new immunoregulatory axis. The balance along this axis may determine the outcome of tumor immunosurveillance as well as influence the efficacy of anti-cancer vaccines and immunotherapy.

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