CD4 cells can be more efficient at tumor rejection than CD8 cells

Blood. 2007 Jun 15;109(12):5346-54. doi: 10.1182/blood-2006-10-051318. Epub 2007 Feb 27.


Researchers designing antitumor treatments have long focused on eliciting tumor-specific CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) because of their potent killing activity and their ability to reject transplanted organs. The resulting treatments, however, have generally been surprisingly poor at inducing complete tumor rejection, both in experimental models and in the clinic. Although a few scattered studies suggested that CD4 T "helper" cells might also serve as antitumor effectors, they have generally been studied mostly for their ability to enhance the activity of CTL. In this mouse study, we compared monoclonal populations of tumor-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells as effectors against several different tumors, and found that CD4 T cells eliminated tumors that were resistant to CD8-mediated rejection, even in cases where the tumors expressed major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules but not MHC class II. MHC class II expression on host tissues was critical, suggesting that the CD4 T cells act indirectly. Indeed, the CD4 T cells partnered with NK cells to obtain the maximal antitumor effect. These findings suggest that CD4 T cells can be powerful antitumor effector cells that can, in some cases, outperform CD8 T cells, which are the current "gold standard" effector cell in tumor immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II