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Br J Cancer. 2013 Jun 11;108(11):2281-90. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.206. Epub 2013 May 2.

Myeloid-derived suppressor cells have a central role in attenuated Listeria monocytogenes-based immunotherapy against metastatic breast cancer in young and old mice.

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Forchheimer Building, Room F407, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.



Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are present in large numbers in blood of mice and humans with cancer, and they strongly inhibit T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell responses, at young and old age. We found that a highly attenuated bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria(at))-infected MDSC and altered the immune-suppressing function of MDSC.


Young (3 months) and old (18 months) BALB/cByJ mice with metastatic breast cancer (4T1 model) were immunised with Listeria(at) semi-therapeutically (once before and twice after tumour development), and analysed for growth of metastases and primary tumour, in relation to MDSC-, CD8 T-cell and NK cell responses.


We found that Listeria(at)-infected MDSC, which delivered Listeria(at) predominantly to the microenvironment of metastases and primary tumours, where they spread from MDSC into tumour cells (infected tumour cells will ultimately become a target for Listeria-activated immune cells). Immunotherapy with Listeria(at) significantly reduced the population of MDSC in blood and primary tumours, and converted a remaining subpopulation of MDSC into an immune-stimulating phenotype producing IL-12, in correlation with significantly improved T-cell and NK cell responses to Listeria(at) at both ages. This was accompanied with a dramatic reduction in the number of metastases and tumour growth at young and old age.


Although preclinical studies show that immunotherapy is less effective at old than at young age, our study demonstrates that Listeria(at)-based immunotherapy can be equally effective against metastatic breast cancer at both young and old age by targeting MDSC.

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