Mutations and regulatory anomalies effecting tumor cell immune functions

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2004 Jan;53(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s00262-003-0418-3. Epub 2003 Sep 12.


The immune system is capable of interacting with tumor cells in such a way as to lead to tumor cell death, and this knowledge has inspired therapies to manipulate patient immune systems to eradicate cancer. However, tumor cells are able to mitigate the antitumor immune response, a fact that has rarely been addressed in the design of immunotherapies. There are many different tumor cell immune functions that play a role in mitigating the antitumor immune response. In some cases, these functions appear to be intimately associated with the tumor cell abnormalities that lead to loss of growth control, such as the cases where classical tumor suppressor proteins regulate tumor cell immune function genes. In other cases, tumor cell mutations appear to affect only the antitumor response, such as tumor cell mutations that eliminate MHC class I expression. Here I review the bases for tumor cell immune functions, noting in particular where tumor cell mutations, the gold standard for identifying a tumor-specific function, are known to be responsible for the tumor cell immune function. This review also discusses other known regulatory anomalies, in the absence of a known mutation, that are apparently important for tumor development and that regulate tumor cell immune functions. Surprisingly, in many cases where the tumor cell immune function is well understood in terms of its effect on the antitumor immune response, the tumor abnormality underlying the tumor cell immune function is completely uncharacterized.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mutation / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Interleukins