Primary breast tumours but not lung metastases induce protective anti-tumour immune responses after Treg-depletion

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2020 Oct;69(10):2063-2073. doi: 10.1007/s00262-020-02603-x. Epub 2020 May 23.


Although metastatic disease is responsible for the majority of cancer deaths, tests of novel immunotherapies in mouse tumour models often focus on primary tumours without determining whether these therapies also target metastatic disease. This study examined the impact of depleting Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg), on lung metastases, using a mouse model of breast cancer. After Treg-depletion, generation of an immune response to the primary tumour was a critical determinant for limiting development of metastasis. Indeed, resection of the primary tumour abrogated any effect of Treg-depletion on metastases. In addition, whilst the immune response, generated by the primary tumour, prevented metastases development, it had little impact on controlling established disease. Collectively, the data indicate that metastatic cells in the lung are not controlled by immune responses induced by the primary tumour. These findings indicate that targeting Tregs alone will not suffice for treating lung metastases.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Immunotherapy; Mouse; Resection; T cells; Tregs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Lymphocyte Depletion / methods*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / therapy


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse