In situ characterization, clonogenic potential, and antitumor cytolytic activity of T lymphocytes infiltrating human brain cancers

J Neurosurg. 1988 Mar;68(3):438-48. doi: 10.3171/jns.1988.68.3.0438.


Mononuclear cells infiltrating human brain tumors were isolated from seven of nine surgical biopsy specimens. These cells were small T11+, T3+ lymphocytes that did not express DR antigens or the receptor for interleukin-2. In addition, large granular lymphocytes were recovered from two of these tumors. The clonogenic potential of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL's) was assessed by limiting-dilution analysis (LDA) using a microculture system that permits proliferation of virtually 100% of normal peripheral blood T lymphocytes (PBL-T's). In comparison to normal and autologous PBL-T's, TIL's had a strikingly reduced proliferative potential revealed by a decrease in the frequency of proliferating T lymphocyte precursors calculated by LDA. On average, only one of every 100 T cells from TIL's was able to proliferate, as compared to one of every two or all of the T cells from the patient's peripheral blood or from normal donors. Furthermore, the TIL populations showed depressed proliferative responses to the lectins phytohemagglutinin and concanavalin A and to the phorbol ester 12-0-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate. Clonal analysis performed on the proliferating microcultures from three tumors demonstrated that the majority of these clones possessed cytolytic activity against various tumor cell targets. Among clones tested for cytolytic activities with glioma cells, four lysed cultured autologous tumor cells, and the specific lysis was greater than 50% in all cases. Numerous clones with natural killer (NK)-like activity were obtained from two TIL preparations, and the frequency of cytolytic T lymphocyte precursors with NK-like activity was determined for one of these preparations and was found to be higher than that in the patient's peripheral blood. Glioma cells grown in culture and then mixed with normal peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL's) were capable of inhibiting the PBL's response to lectins. This inhibitory property may account in part for the observed poor clonogenicity of TIL's from brain tumors. Nevertheless, nearly all proliferating clones displayed cytotoxicity against either autologous or allogeneic tumor cell targets and may imply selective accumulation of cytolytic effector cells at the tumor site.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Brain Neoplasms / immunology
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Child
  • Clone Cells
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Glioma / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • T-Lymphocytes / classification
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Concanavalin A