Patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma are characterized by increased frequency of suppressive regulatory T cells in the blood and tumor microenvironment

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010 Jun;59(6):819-28. doi: 10.1007/s00262-009-0803-7. Epub 2009 Dec 12.


Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a cancerous lesion with high incidence worldwide. The immunoregulatory events leading to OSCC persistence remain to be elucidated. Our hypothesis is that regulatory T cells (Tregs) are important to obstruct antitumor immune responses in patients with OSCC. In the present study, we investigated the frequency, phenotype, and activity of Tregs from blood and lesions of patients with OSCC. Our data showed that >80% of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells isolated from PBMC and tumor sites express FoxP3. Also, these cells express surface Treg markers, such as GITR, CD45RO, CD69, LAP, CTLA-4, CCR4, and IL-10. Purified CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells exhibited stronger suppressive activity inhibiting allogeneic T-cell proliferation and IFN-gamma production when compared with CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells isolated from healthy individuals. Interestingly, approximately 25% of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells of PBMC from patients also expressed FoxP3 and, although these cells weakly suppress allogeneic T cells proliferative response, they inhibited IFN-gamma and induced IL-10 and TGF-beta secretion in these co-cultures. Thus, our data show that Treg cells are present in OSCC lesions and PBMC, and these cells appear to suppress immune responses both systemically and in the tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Differentiation / biosynthesis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / blood
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / blood
  • Mouth Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology
  • Tumor Escape*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Cytokines
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors