The Ambiguous Role of γδ T Lymphocytes in Antitumor Immunity

Trends Immunol. 2017 Sep;38(9):668-678. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Jul 11.


γδ T cells play a role in immune surveillance because they recognize stress-induced surface molecules and metabolic intermediates that are frequently dysregulated in transformed cells. Hence, γδ T cells have attracted much interest as effector cells in cell-based immunotherapy. Recently, however, it has been realized that γδ T cells can also promote tumorigenesis through various mechanisms including regulatory activity and IL-17 production. In this review we outline both the pathways involved in cancer cell recognition and killing by γδ T cells as well as current evidence for their protumorigenic activity in various models. Finally, we discuss strategies to improve the tumor reactivity of γδ T cells and to counteract their protumorigenic activities, which should open improved perspectives for their clinical application.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • B7-H1 Antigen / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Immunomodulation
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Interleukin-17
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta