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.