Cervical cancer cell-derived interleukin-6 impairs CCR7-dependent migration of MMP-9-expressing dendritic cells

Int J Cancer. 2014 May 1;134(9):2061-73. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28549.


Cervical carcinogenesis is a consequence of persistent infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Recent studies indicate that HPV-transformed cells actively instruct their microenvironment to promote carcinogenesis. Here, we demonstrate that cervical cancer cells activate monocytes to produce their own CCL2 for further monocyte recruitment and reprogram their function during differentiation and maturation to dendritic cells (DCs). Our data show that cervical cancer cells suppress the induction of the chemokine receptor CCR7 in phenotypically mature DCs and impair their migration toward a lymph node homing chemokine, required to initiate adaptive immune responses. We confirmed the presence of CD83(+)CCR7(low) DCs in cancer biopsies. The second factor essential for DC migration, matrix-metalloproteinase MMP-9, which also has vasculogenic and protumorigenic properties, is not suppressed but upregulated in immature as well as mature DCs. We identified interleukin-6 (IL-6) as a crucial cervical cancer cell-derived mediator and nuclear factor kappaB (NF-jB) as the central signaling pathway targeted in DCs. Anti-IL-6 antibodies reverted not only NF-jB inhibition and restored CCR7-dependent migration but also blocked MMP-9 induction. This is the first report demonstrating the dissociation of CCR7 and MMP-9 expression in phenotypically mature CD83(+) DCs by cancer cells. Our results show that cervical cancer cells actively shape the local microenvironment. They induce the accumulation of myeloid cells and skew their function from immune activation to local production of protumorigenic MMP-9. Neutralizing anti-IL-6 antibodies can counteract this functional dysbalance and should therefore be considered for adjuvant cervical cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism*
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / biosynthesis*
  • Monocytes / cytology
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, CCR7 / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • CCR7 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, CCR7
  • MMP9 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9