Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) play a key immunosuppressive role in various types of cancer, including ovarian cancer (OC). In this study, we characterized CD14+HLA-DR-/lo MDSC with a typical monocytic phenotype (M-MDSC) in the peripheral blood (PB) and ascites from OC patients. Compared to healthy donors, OC patients had a significantly increased abundance of M-MDSC in both PB and ascites; importantly, their abundance in both compartments was inversely associated with the prognosis where OC patients with higher level of M-MDSC having a shorter relapse-free survival. Intriguingly, we demonstrated that M-MDSC could be readily induced by ascitic fluids (AF) from OC patients, which was predominantly dependent on IL-6, IL-10 and STAT3 activation as neutralization of IL-6 and/or IL-10 or inhibition of STAT3 abrogated MDSC's expansion while recombinant IL-6 and IL-10 recapitulated the expansive effect of AF; furthermore, predominantly elevated levels of IL-6 and IL-10 has been noted in the AF which was positively correlated with the abundance of M-MDSC as well as poor prognosis of OC patients. As expected, we observed that AF-driven STAT3 activation upregulated the expression of arginase (ARG1) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in induced M-MDSC through which these MDSC executed the immunosuppressive activity. Taken together, these results demonstrate that abundant M-MDSC are present in both periphery and ascites of OC patients whose accumulation and suppressive activity is critically attributable to ascites-derived IL-6 and IL-10 and their downstream STAT3 signal, thus providing a potentially novel therapeutic option by locally targeting MDSC to improve antitumor efficacy.
Keywords: IL-10; IL-6; MDSC; STAT3; ovarian cancer.