Increase in circulating Foxp3+CD4+CD25(high) regulatory T cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients

Br J Cancer. 2007 Feb 26;96(4):617-22. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603580. Epub 2007 Jan 30.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an Epstein-Barr virus-associated disease with high prevalence in Southern Chinese. Using multiparametric flow cytometry, we identified significant expansions of circulating naïve and memory CD4+CD25(high) T cells in 56 NPC patients compared with healthy age- and sex-matched controls. These were regulatory T cells (Treg), as they overexpressed Foxp3 and GITR, and demonstrated enhanced suppressive activities against autologous CD4+CD25- T-cell proliferation in functional studies on five patients. Abundant intraepithelial infiltrations of Treg with very high levels of Foxp3 expression and absence of CCR7 expression were also detected in five primary tumours. Our current study is the first to demonstrate an expansion of functional Treg in the circulation of NPC patients and the presence of infiltrating Treg in the tumour microenvironment. As Treg may play an important role in suppressing antitumour immunity, our findings provide critical insights for clinical management of NPC.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Glucocorticoid-Induced TNFR-Related Protein
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Glucocorticoid-Induced TNFR-Related Protein
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • TNFRSF18 protein, human