Systemic immune dysfunction in pancreatic cancer patients

Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2007 May;392(3):353-8. doi: 10.1007/s00423-006-0140-7. Epub 2007 Jan 19.


Background and aims: We investigated the immune status in 32 pancreatic cancer patients (PC) in comparison with healthy controls (HC).

Materials and methods: Using flow cytometry, peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) were characterized by the expression of surface markers for T helper cells (CD4), T suppressor cells (CD8), B cells (CD19) and NK cells (CD56). The blastogenic response of PBL was analyzed after stimulation with concavalin A (ConA), phytohemagglutinin (PHA), pokeweed mitogen (PWM) and anti-CD3 antibodies. The serum levels of TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-10, IL-12, IL-18, IL-1RA, sIL-2R and TGF-beta were determined by ELISA.

Results: No differences in the distribution of peripheral immunocytes in PC were found, whereas the blastogenic response of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) after stimulation with PHA or anti-CD3 antibodies was significantly decreased in PC. In PC, we found reduced serum levels of IL-2 and significantly elevated levels of TNF-alpha, TGF-beta1, IL-10, IL-2R, IL-1beta and IL-1RA.

Conclusion: These data provide evidence for a systemic immune dysfunction in pancreatic cancer patients characterized by a shift towards a T helper cell type 2 cytokine profile, a significant elevation of substances related to T cell suppression and a reduced blastogenic response to PHA and anti-CD3 antibodies of PBL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / blood
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / blood
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukins
  • Mitogens
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta