Immunotherapy in CNS cancers: the role of immune cell trafficking

Neuro Oncol. 2019 Jan 1;21(1):37-46. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noy084.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is a highly malignant CNS tumor with very poor survival despite intervention with conventional therapeutic strategies. Although the CNS is separated from the immune system by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier, emerging evidence of immune surveillance and the selective infiltration of GBMs by immune suppressive cells indicates that there is breakdown or compromise of these physical barriers. This in turn offers hope that immunotherapy can be applied to specifically target and reduce tumor burden. One of the major setbacks in translating immunotherapy strategies is the hostile microenvironment of the tumor that inhibits trafficking of effector immune cells such as cytotoxic T lymphocytes into the CNS. Incorporating important findings from autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis to understand and thereby enhance cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration into GBM could augment immunotherapy strategies to treat this disease. However, although these therapies are designed to evoke a potent immune response, limited space in the brain and cranial vault reduces tolerance for immune therapy-induced inflammation and resultant brain edema. Therefore, successful immunotherapy requires that a delicate balance be maintained between activating and retaining lasting antitumor immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / immunology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents