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Oncoimmunology. 2019 May 15;8(8):1607674. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2019.1607674. eCollection 2019.

Frequency determination of breast tumor-reactive CD4 and CD8 T cells in humans: unveiling the antitumor immune response.

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Department of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Università della Svizzera italiana, Bellinzona, Switzerland.
Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


As cancer immunotherapy gains importance, the determination of a patient's ability to react to his/her tumor is unquestionably relevant. Though the presence of T cells that recognize specific tumor antigens is well established, the total frequency of tumor-reactive T cells in humans is difficult to assess, especially due to the lack of broad analysis techniques. Here, we describe a strategy that allows this determination, in both CD4 and CD8 compartments, using T cell proliferation induced by tumor cell-lysate pulsed dendritic cells as the readout. All 12 healthy donor tested had circulating CD4 and CD8 tumor cell-reactive T cells. The detection of these T cells, not only in the naïve but also in the memory compartment, can be seen as an evidence of tumor immunosurveillance in humans. As expected, breast cancer patients had higher frequencies of blood tumor-reactive T cells, but with differences among breast cancer subtypes. Interestingly, the frequency of blood tumor-reactive T cells in patients did not correlate to the frequency of infiltrating tumor-reactive T cells, highlighting the danger of implying a local tumor response from blood obtained data. In conclusion, these data add T cell evidence to immunosurveillance in humans, confirm that immune parameters in blood may be misleading and describe a tool to follow the tumor-specific immune response in patients and, thus, to design better immunotherapeutic approaches.


Cancer Immunosurveillance; Dendritic cell; T cell repertoire; Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes; Tumor-specific T lymphocytes

[Available on 2020-05-15]

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