The role of regulatory T lymphocytes in the induced immune response mediated by biological vaccines

Immunobiology. 2006;211(1-2):127-36. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2005.11.003. Epub 2006 Jan 4.


Immunotherapy has become a novel therapeutic alternative for various kinds of tumours. Recently, we have finalized the first phase I clinical study in Chile for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma, using dendritic cells (DCs) loaded with allogeneic melanoma cell lysate. This study included 20 patients and the obtained results, pioneer in Latin America, showed that DC-based immunotherapy is innocuous, even provided in combination with IL-2. In addition, immunological responses were detected in 50% of the treated patients, establishing a positive correlation between the delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) reaction, which indicates induction of in vivo immunological memory, and patients surviving. Nevertheless, objective clinical responses in vaccinated patients are still insufficient. Only sporadic objective metastasis regressions have been registered and an important proportion of the treated patients did not respond, or their responses were weak. Several strategies have been described to be used by tumours to escape from the immune response. Actually, we have demonstrated that IL-10 inhibits antigen presentation in melanoma, reducing tumour sensitivity to melanoma-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Regulation of the immunological response by inhibitory cells could be another possible cause of clinical unresponsiveness. Lately, the existence of subpopulations of regulatory T lymphocytes (RTL) able to limit the immune response in a specific form has been established, specially inhibiting the proliferation and activity of CD4+ and CD8+ effector T lymphocytes. These cellular subpopulations, mostly CD4+/CD25+/Foxp3+ T lymphocytes (Treg) of thymic origin, or TR1 lymphocytes able to release IL-10, and tumour growth factor beta (TGF-beta) producing TH3 lymphocytes, would be accumulated in the body during tumour growth, inhibiting the immune response. In relation to RTL and cancer, evidence indicates that Treg cell numbers are increased in blood and other tissues in different types of cancer. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that in patients with refractory metastatic melanoma, the adoptive transference of anti-tumour CD8+ T lymphocytes after non-myeloablative chemotherapy was able to induce important tumour regressions that would be due to elimination of RTL populations. Additionally, chemotherapeutical drugs like decarbazine, besides their effect on tumour proliferation, also have an immunosuppressive effect on T lymphocyte populations, as well as on accumulated RTL. In this article, a novel strategy for the study of RTL is proposed, including potential therapeutic innovations, which is being pioneered in current clinical trials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / transplantation
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / trends
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines