Regulatory T cells in the treatment of disease

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2018 Nov;17(11):823-844. doi: 10.1038/nrd.2018.148. Epub 2018 Oct 12.


Regulatory T (Treg) cells suppress inflammation and regulate immune system activity. In patients with systemic or organ-specific autoimmune diseases or those receiving transplanted organs, Treg cells are compromised. Approaches to strengthen Treg cell function, either by expanding them ex vivo and reinfusing them or by increasing the number or capacity of existing Treg cells, have entered clinical trials. Unlike the situation in autoimmunity, in patients with cancer, Treg cells limit the antitumour immune response and promote angiogenesis and tumour growth. Their immunosuppressive function may, in part, explain the failure of many immunotherapies in cancer. Strategies to reduce the function and/or number of Treg cells specifically in tumour sites are being investigated to promote antitumour immunity and regression. Here, we describe the current progress in modulating Treg cells in autoimmune disorders, transplantation and cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents