Changes in Peripheral Blood Regulatory T Cells and IL-6 and IL-10 Levels Predict Response of Pediatric Medulloblastoma and Germ Cell Tumors With Residual or Disseminated Disease to Craniospinal Irradiation

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Oct 1;111(2):479-490. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.04.041. Epub 2021 May 8.


Purpose: Radiation therapy (RT) modulates immune cells and cytokines, resulting in both clinically beneficial and detrimental effects. The changes in peripheral blood T lymphocyte subsets and cytokines during RT for pediatric brain tumors and the association of these changes with therapeutic outcomes have not been well described.

Methods and materials: The study population consisted of children (n = 83, aged 3~18) with primary brain tumors (medulloblastoma, glioma, germ cell tumors (GCT), and central nervous system embryonal tumor-not otherwise specified), with or without residual or disseminated (R/D) diseases who were starting standard postoperative focal or craniospinal irradiation (CSI). Peripheral blood T lymphocyte subsets collected before and 4 weeks after RT were enumerated by flow cytometry. Plasma levels of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ, and IL-17A were measured by cytometric bead array.

Results: Patients with R/D lesions receiving CSI (n = 32) had a post-RT increase in the frequency of CD3+T and CD8+T cells, a decrease in CD4+T cells, and an increase in regulatory T cells (Tregs) and CD8+CD28- suppressor cells, which was more predominantly seen in these patients than in other groups. In the CSI group with such R/D lesions, consisting of patients with medulloblastoma and germ cell tumors, 19 experienced a complete response (CR) and 13 experienced a partial response (PR) on imaging at 4 weeks after RT. The post/pre-RT ratio of Tregs (P = .0493), IL-6 (P = .0111), and IL-10 (P = .0070) was lower in the CR group than in the PR group. Multivariate analysis revealed that the post/pre-RT ratios of Treg, IL-6, and IL-10 were independent predictors of CR (P < .0001, P = .018, P < .0001, respectively). The areas under the receiver operating curves and confidence intervals were 0.7652 (0.5831-0.8964), 0.7794 (0.5980-0.9067), and 0.7085 (0.5223-0.8552) for IL-6, IL-10, and Treg, respectively. The sensitivities of IL-6, IL-10, and Treg to predict radiotherapeutic responses were 100%, 92.3%, and 61.5%, and specificity was 52.6%, 57.9%, and 84.2%, respectively.

Conclusions: CSI treatment to those with R/D lesions predominantly exerted an effect on antitumor immune response compared with both R/D lesion-free but exposed to focal or CSI RT and with R/D lesions and exposed to focal RT. Such CSI with R/D lesions group experiencing CR is more likely to have a decrease in immunoinhibitory molecules and cells than patients who only achieve PR. Measuring peripheral blood Treg, IL-6, and IL-10 levels could be valuable for predicting radiotherapeutic responses of pediatric brain tumors with R/D lesions to CSI for medulloblastoma and intracranial germ cell tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / immunology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniospinal Irradiation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / blood*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medulloblastoma / immunology
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Medulloblastoma / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / immunology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / radiotherapy*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • IL10 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-10