Gemcitabine directly inhibits myeloid derived suppressor cells in BALB/c mice bearing 4T1 mammary carcinoma and augments expansion of T cells from tumor-bearing mice

Int Immunopharmacol. 2009 Jul;9(7-8):900-9. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2009.03.015. Epub 2009 Mar 29.


Myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) accumulate in 4T1 mammary carcinoma bearing mice and present a barrier to the success of adoptive immunotherapy (AIT) by suppressing T cell immunity. In this study, we investigated the inhibition of MDSCs by gemcitabine (GEM), a chemotherapy agent that may have favorable immunologic effects. BALB/c mice were inoculated with 4T1 mammary carcinoma cells and treated with GEM either once a week starting 5 days after tumor inoculation (EARLY GEM) or as a single dose at days 20-25 (LATE GEM). Splenic mononuclear cells were isolated, activated in vitro, expanded, and stimulated with tumor antigen. T cells were then used for AIT to treat tumor-bearing mice. EARLY GEM treatment of 4T1 tumor-bearing mice significantly inhibited tumor growth, reduced splenomegaly, and significantly decreased MDSC proportion in the spleen. Support for a direct effect was demonstrated through suppression of MDSCs in spleens, bone marrow, and blood harvested 24 and 48 h after LATE GEM treatment, despite no significant decrease in tumor burden. Interestingly, treatment of tumor-bearing mice with GEM augmented in vitro expansion of splenic T cells and boosted IFN-gamma secretion in response to stimulation by tumor antigen. However, despite GEM-mediated inhibition of MDSC suppression, splenic T cells from mice with advanced tumors were ineffective in vivo against established tumors. This study provides support for direct inhibition of MDSCs and direct reduction of tumor burden by GEM in 4T1 tumor-bearing mice. GEM treatment of mice with advanced tumors improves T cell function and growth in vitro.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • Cell Growth Processes / drug effects
  • Cell Growth Processes / immunology
  • Deoxycytidine / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Female
  • Gemcitabine
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / pathology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / therapy*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects
  • Tumor Burden / immunology
  • Tumor Escape / drug effects
  • Tumor Escape / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Gemcitabine