Background: Some cancer patients are immuno-compromised, and it has been long felt that immune-intervention is not compatible with standard chemotherapies. However, increasing evidence suggests that standard chemotherapy drugs may stimulate beneficial changes in both the immune system and tumour.
Methods: We have assessed the expression of human leucocyte antigen class 1 (HLA1) on tumour cells before and after chemotherapy agents (cyclophosphamide, oxaliplatin or gemcitabine). In addition, we show that chemotherapy-stressed tumour cells may release cytokines that enhance the interactions between dendritic cells (DCs) and T cells into growth media.
Results: Here we report that some chemotherapy agents can increase HLA1 expression in tumour cells, even when expression is low. Increases were associated with killing by cytotoxic T cells, which were negated by HLA1-blockade. Furthermore, T-cell function, as indicated by increased proliferation, was enhanced as supernatants derived from tumours treated with chemotherapy augmented DC-maturation and function.
Conclusion: There is evidence that a facet of immune surveillance can be restored by appropriate chemotherapy agents. Also, tumours exposed to some chemotherapy may secrete cytokines that can mature DCs, which ultimately enhances T-cell responses.