Emerging evidence indicates that physiologically relevant thermal stress regulates dendritic cell function

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2006 Mar;55(3):292-8. doi: 10.1007/s00262-005-0689-y. Epub 2005 Apr 28.


Elevations in temperature that are associated with inflammation or fever have been linked to improved survival from infections, enhanced immunological functions, and increased control of tumor growth. Over the past few years, several groups have begun to explore the possible linkage among these observations and have tested the hypothesis that various immune cells are especially sensitive to thermal stimulation. However, relatively little is known regarding the effects of thermal stimulation on antigen presenting cells (APCs), such as dendritic cells (DCs). Very recently, several groups have begun to examine the ability of thermal stimuli to regulate the function of these cells which are known to play a pivotal role in the efficacy of vaccines and other immunotherapies. In this review, we summarize what has been discovered about the role of mild thermal stress in regulating various Dendritic cell (DC) activities. Excitingly, it appears that mild elevations of temperature have the potential to enhance antigen uptake, activation associated migration, maturation, cytokine expression and T cell stimulatory activity of DCs. While these studies reveal that the timing, temperature and duration of heating is important, they also set the stage for essential questions that now need to be investigated regarding the molecular mechanisms by which elevated temperatures regulate DC function. With this information, we may soon be able to maximize the strategic use of thermal therapy as an adjuvant, i.e., combining its use with cancer immunotherapies such as vaccines, which depend upon the function of DCs. Several possible strategies and timepoints involving the clinical application of hyperthermia in combination with immunotherapy are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Fever / immunology*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology