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Cancer Res. 1998 Mar 15;58(6):1208-16.

Non-small cell lung cancer cyclooxygenase-2-dependent regulation of cytokine balance in lymphocytes and macrophages: up-regulation of interleukin 10 and down-regulation of interleukin 12 production.

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Department of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine and the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, California 90073, USA.


Tumor-derived prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) modifies cytokine balance and inhibits host immunity. We hypothesized that a high level of PGE2 production by lung tumor cells is dependent on tumor cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression. We found that PGE2 production by A549 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells was elevated up to 50-fold in response to interleukin (IL)-1beta. Reversal of IL-1beta-induced PGE2 production in A549 cells was achieved by specific pharmacological or antisense oligonucleotide inhibition of COX-2 activity or expression. In contrast, specific COX-1 inhibition was not effective. Consistent with these findings, IL-1beta induced COX-2 mRNA expression and protein production in A549 cells. Specific inhibition of COX-2 abrogated the capacity of IL-1beta-stimulated A549 cells to induce IL-10 in lymphocytes and macrophages. Furthermore, specific inhibition of A549 COX-2 reversed the tumor-derived PGE2-dependent inhibition of macrophage IL-12 production when whole blood was cultured in tumor supernatants. Our results indicate that lung tumor-derived PGE2 plays a pivotal role in promoting lymphocyte and macrophage IL-10 induction while simultaneously inhibiting macrophage IL-12 production. Immunohistochemistry of human NSCLC tissues obtained from lung cancer resection specimens revealed cytoplasmic staining for COX-2 within tumor cells. This is the first description of functional COX-2 expression by NSCLC cells and the definition of a pathway whereby tumor COX-2 expression and a high level of PGE2 production mediate profound alteration in cytokine balance in the lung cancer microenvironment.

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