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J Immunol. 2010 Dec 1;185(11):7067-76. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1001137. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

A critical role for mast cells and mast cell-derived IL-6 in TLR2-mediated inhibition of tumor growth.

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Dalhousie Inflammation Group, Halifax, Nova Scoita, Canada.


Several TLR agonists are effective in tumor immunotherapy, but their early innate mechanisms of action, particularly those of TLR2 agonists, are unclear. Mast cells are abundant surrounding solid tumors where they are often protumorigenic and enhance tumor angiogenesis. However, antitumor roles for mast cells have also been documented. The impact of mast cells may be dependent on their activation status and mediator release in different tumors. Using an orthotopic melanoma model in wild-type C57BL/6 and mast cell-deficient Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice and a complementary Matrigel-tumor model in C57BL/6 mice, mast cells were shown to be crucial for TLR2 agonist (Pam(3)CSK(4))-induced tumor inhibition. Activation of TLR2 on mast cells reversed their well-documented protumorigenic role. Tumor growth inhibition after peritumoral administration of Pam(3)CSK(4) was restored in Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice by local reconstitution with wild-type, but not TLR2-deficient, mast cells. Mast cells secrete multiple mediators after Pam(3)CSK(4) activation, and in vivo mast cell reconstitution studies also revealed that tumor growth inhibition required mast cell-derived IL-6, but not TNF. Mast cell-mediated anticancer properties were multifaceted. Direct antitumor effects in vitro and decreased angiogenesis and recruitment of NK and T cells in vivo were observed. TLR2-activated mast cells also inhibited the growth of lung cancer cells in vivo. Unlike other immune cells, mast cells are relatively radioresistant making them attractive candidates for combined treatment modalities. This study has important implications for the design of immunotherapeutic strategies and reveals, to our knowledge, a novel mechanism of action for TLR2 agonists in vivo.

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