TGF-β1 programmed myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) acquire immune-stimulating and tumor killing activity capable of rejecting established tumors in combination with radiotherapy

Oncoimmunology. 2018 Jul 26;7(10):e1490853. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2018.1490853. eCollection 2018.


Cancer-induced myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) play an important role in tumor immune evasion. MDSC programming or polarization has been proposed as a strategy for leveraging the developmental plasticity of myeloid cells to reverse MDSC immune suppressive functions, or cause them to acquire anti-tumor activity. While MDSC derived ex vivo from murine bone marrow precursor cells with tumor-conditioned medium efficiently suppressed T cell proliferation, MDSC derived from conditioned medium in presence of TGF-β1 (TGFβ-MDSC) acquired a novel immune-stimulatory phenotype, losing the ability to inhibit T cell proliferation and acquiring enhanced antigen-presenting capability. Altered immune function was associated with SMAD-2 dependent upregulation of maturation and costimulatory molecules, and downregulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), an effector mechanism of immunosuppression. TGFβ-MDSC also upregulated FAS-ligand expression, leading to FAS-dependent killing of murine human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated head and neck cancer cells and tumor spheroids in vitro and anti-tumor activity in vivo. Radiation upregulated FAS expression on tumor cells, and the combination of radiotherapy and intratumoral injection of TGFβ-MDSC strongly enhanced class I expression on tumor cells and induction of HPV E7 tetramer-positive CD8 + T cells, leading to clearance of established tumors and long-term survival. TGFβ-MDSC derived from human PBMC with tumor conditioned medium also lost immunosuppressive function and acquired tumor-killing activity. Thus, TGFβ1 mediated programming of nascent MDSC leads to a potent anti-tumor phenotype potentially suitable for adoptive immunotherapy.

Keywords: CD86; MDSC; SMAD2; TGF-beta; adoptive cellular therapy; caspase-3; myeloid-derived suppressor cells (written out); radiotherapy; tumor killing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural