Role of Th1 and Th2 cytokines in BCG-induced IFN-gamma production: cytokine promotion and simulation of BCG effect

Cytokine. 2003 Jan 7;21(1):17-26. doi: 10.1016/s1043-4666(02)00490-8.


Induction of a T-helper-type 1 (Th1) immune response is indispensable for successful treatment of superficial bladder cancer with BCG. In this study possible involvement of various cytokines in BCG action as well as their potential roles in enhancing and mimicking BCG effect were explored. In immunocompetent cell cultures, IFN-gamma, a major Th1 cytokine, appears to be a late responsive cytokine to BCG stimulation. Its induction requires involvement of various endogenously produced Th1 and Th2 cytokines. Functional abolishment of any one of these cytokines (IL-2, IL-6, IL-12, IL-18, GMCSF, TNF-alpha, or IFN-alpha, except IL-10) by neutralizing antibodies leads to reduced IFN-gamma production (19-82% inhibition in mouse and 44-77% inhibition in human systems, respectively). In mice cytokines IL-2, IL-12, IL-18, and GMCSF are observed to synergize with BCG for IFN-gamma production, whereas in human cytokines IL-2, IL-12, TNF-alpha, and IFN-alpha exhibit similar synergistic effects. Rational combinations of these Th1-stimulating cytokines (IL-12 plus IL-18 in mice and IL-2 plus IL-12 in humans, respectively) dramatically up-regulate IFN-gamma production that is incomparably superior to BCG for induction of this cytokine. These results suggest that combined Th1-stimulating cytokines and combinations of BCG plus selected Th1-stimulating cytokines are rational candidates for further study in the treatment of bladder cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • BCG Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Kinetics
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Up-Regulation
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • BCG Vaccine
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interferon-gamma