The impact of CD4+CD25+ Treg on tumor specific CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity and cancer

Semin Cancer Biol. 2006 Apr;16(2):124-36. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2005.11.006. Epub 2006 Jan 26.


There is sufficient evidence to suggest that tumor growth elicits specific immune responses, including CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses that may delay tumor growth and could potentially be harnessed to eradicate cancer. Nevertheless the frequent outcome of cancer is lethality associated with uncontrolled growth and dissemination of tumor cells. The failure of the immune response may be naturally programmed and related to a specific subpopulation of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells, whose function is to protect us against autoimmunity. Recent investigations have shed light on the in vivo behavior and functions of these cells. It is becoming evident that a major impact of these cells is on the cytolytic action of specific CD8(+) T cells that target the tumor. Inhibition of cytotoxicity is dependent on TGF-beta signaling by the effector cells. Thus, targeting immune regulation may provide a promising approach to the immune therapy of cancer. This approach however could also have unexpected deleterious consequences, as surprising new observations indicate that regulatory T cells can also delay tumor growth by independent mechanisms that relate to their cross talk with the innate immune response to cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta