Cancer immunotherapy activates the immune system to specifically target malignant cells. Research has often focused on CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, as those have the capacity to eliminate tumor cells after specific recognition upon TCR-MHC class I interaction. However, CD4+ T cells have gained attention in the field, as they are not only essential to promote help to CD8+ T cells, but are also able to kill tumor cells directly (via MHC-class II dependent recognition) or indirectly (e.g., via the activation of other immune cells like macrophages). Therefore, immunotherapy approaches have shifted from only stimulating CD8+ T cells to targeting and assessing both, CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets. Here, we discuss the various subsets of CD4+ T cells, their plasticity and functionality, their relevance in the antitumor immune response in patients affected by cancer, and their ever-growing role in therapeutic approaches for human cancer.
Keywords: CD4+ T cells; immunotherapy; tumor.