High T-cell infiltration in colorectal cancer (CRC) correlates with a favorable disease outcome and immunotherapy response. This, however, is only observed in a small subset of CRC patients. A better understanding of the factors influencing tumor T-cell responses in CRC could inspire novel therapeutic approaches to achieve broader immunotherapy responsiveness. Here, we investigated T cell-suppressive properties of different myeloid cell types in an inducible colon tumor mouse model. The most potent inhibitors of T-cell activity were tumor-infiltrating neutrophils. Gene expression analysis and combined in vitro and in vivo tests indicated that T-cell suppression is mediated by neutrophil-secreted metalloproteinase activation of latent TGFβ. CRC patient neutrophils similarly suppressed T cells via TGFβ in vitro, and public gene expression datasets suggested that T-cell activity is lowest in CRCs with combined neutrophil infiltration and TGFβ activation. Thus, the interaction of neutrophils with a TGFβ-rich tumor microenvironment may represent a conserved immunosuppressive mechanism in CRC.
Keywords: T-cell suppression; TGF-β; colorectal cancer; neutrophils; tumor microenvironment.
© 2019 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.