Purpose: The presence of immunological dysfunction has not been well demonstrated in cancer patients. Recent studies have revealed that the immune response can be classified into types 1 and 2, and in the present work the immunological function of patients was studied from the perspective of these two types of response.
Methods: Types 1 and 2 immune response were evaluated by monitoring the production of various cytokines by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 38 patients with advanced cancer of various organs and 20 healthy subjects. The usual immunological parameters, differential cell leukocyte counts, the level of T cell subsets (CD4 and CD8) and natural killer activity were also examined.
Results: The production of interleukin-2 (IL-2), interferon gamma, IL-10, IL-12 and tumor necrosis factor alpha was found to be significantly lower in the patients (75 +/- 57, 171 +/- 205, 40 +/- 34, 8 +/- 8, 1450 +/- 1010 pg/ml) than in healthy subjects (143 +/- 99, 422 +/- 296, 64 +/- 34, 16 +/- 10, 2550 +/- 950 pg/ml); however, the mean level of IL-4 in the patients seemed to be higher. The correlations between different cytokine levels suggested that they were produced differently. Lymphocyte counts were significantly lower in patients, but there was no difference in the other usual immunological parameters.
Conclusions: Patients with advanced cancer are deficient in monocytes and the type 1 immune response. The measurement of various cytokines reported in this study provides a more sensitive and valuable tool for evaluating the function of cell-mediated immunity in cancer patients than do the usual tests.