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Lab Invest. 2017 May;97(5):498-518. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2017.19. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

Immune microenvironment of gliomas.

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Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.


High-grade gliomas are rapidly progressing tumors of the central nervous system (CNS) with a very poor prognosis despite extensive resection combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy. Histopathological and flow cytometry analyses of human and rodent experimental gliomas revealed heterogeneity of a tumor and its niche, composed of reactive astrocytes, endothelial cells, and numerous immune cells. Infiltrating immune cells consist of CNS resident (microglia) and peripheral macrophages, granulocytes, myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), and T lymphocytes. Intratumoral density of glioma-associated microglia/macrophages (GAMs) and MDSCs is the highest in malignant gliomas and inversely correlates with patient survival. Although GAMs have a few innate immune functions intact, their ability to be stimulated via TLRs, secrete cytokines, and upregulate co-stimulatory molecules is not sufficient to initiate antitumor immune responses. Moreover, tumor-reprogrammed GAMs release immunosuppressive cytokines and chemokines shaping antitumor responses. Both GAMs and MDSCs have ability to attract T regulatory lymphocytes to the tumor, but MDSCs inhibit cytotoxic responses mediated by natural killer cells, and block the activation of tumor-reactive CD4+ T helper cells and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. The presence of regulatory T cells may further contribute to the lack of effective immune activation against malignant gliomas. We review the immunological aspects of glioma microenvironment, in particular composition and various roles of the immune cells infiltrating malignant human gliomas and experimental rodent gliomas. We describe tumor-derived signals and mechanisms driving myeloid cell accumulation and reprogramming. Although, understanding the complexity of cell-cell interactions in glioma microenvironment is far from being achieved, recent studies demonstrated several glioma-derived factors that trigger migration, accumulation, and reprogramming of immune cells. Identification of these factors may facilitate development of immunotherapy for gliomas as immunomodulatory and immune evasion mechanisms employed by malignant gliomas pose an appalling challenge to brain tumor immunotherapy.

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