Tumor growth is allowed by its ability to escape immune system surveillance. An important role in determining tumor evasion from immune control might be played by tumor-infiltrating regulatory lymphocytes. This study was aimed at characterizing phenotype and function of CD8(+)CD28(-) T regulatory cells infiltrating human cancer. Lymphocytes infiltrating primitive tumor lesion and/or satellite lymph node from a series of 42 human cancers were phenotypically studied and functionally analyzed by suppressor assays. The unprecedented observation was made that CD8(+)CD28(-) T regulatory lymphocytes are almost constantly present and functional in human tumors, being able to inhibit both T cell proliferation and cytotoxicity. CD4(+)CD25(+) T regulatory lymphocytes associate with CD8(+)CD28(-) T regulatory cells so that the immunosuppressive activity of tumor-infiltrating regulatory T cell subsets, altogether considered, may become predominant. The infiltration of regulatory T cells seems tumor related, being present in metastatic but not in metastasis-free satellite lymph nodes; it likely depends on both in situ generation (via cytokine production) and recruitment from the periphery (via chemokine secretion). Collectively, these results have pathogenic relevance and implication for immunotherapy of cancer.
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