Interleukin 2 restores CD3-zeta chain expression but fails to generate tumour-specific lytic activity in tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes derived from human colorectal hepatic metastases

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Metastatic colorectal cancer is usually progressive despite infiltration of the tumours by T lymphocytes, suggesting that these tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are functionally deficient. Recently, TILs from other tumours have been shown to express reduced levels of the T-cell receptor signal-transducing CD3-zeta chain. We were interested to determine whether a similar abnormality existed in TILs from human colorectal hepatic metastasis (CHM) and, if so, whether correcting the abnormality in vitro would restore anti-tumour activity and provide support for the development of immunotherapy for colorectal hepatic metastases. Twelve of 19 TILs from colorectal hepatic metastases were successfully expanded in vitro in high-dose recombinant interleukin 2 (rlL-2) and their specific anti-tumour cytolytic activity was determined. CD3-positive (CD3+) TILs were HLA-Drhigh and CD69high, suggesting that they had been activated by exposure to antigen but expressed low levels of CD25, CD71 and the nuclear proliferation antigen Ki-67. Furthermore, they showed reduced expression of CD3-zeta compared with autologous peripheral blood T cells (PBTs) and failed to proliferate in the absence of high-dose rIL-2. Expansion of TILs in rIL-2 resulted in restoration of CD3-zeta expression and the ability to lyse K562 and Daudi cells but not autologous tumour cells. The absence of autologous tumour-specific cytolytic T-cell (CTL) activity may be due to the poor immunogenicity of colorectal tumour cells, which we found expressed only low levels of MHC I antigens and CD54 and failed to express MHC II antigens or the co-stimulatory molecules CD80, CD86 or CD106. The inability of rIL-2 to generate tumour-specific CTLs despite restoration of CD3-zeta expression and the presence of an intact lytic mechanism suggests that successful immunotherapy may require the development of strategies to increase the immunogenicity of this tumour.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-81
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998


  • Adult, Aged, Antigens, CD3, Colorectal Neoplasms, Female, Flow Cytometry, Humans, Immunotherapy, Interleukin-2, Lung Neoplasms, Lymphocyte Activation, Lymphocyte Subsets, Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Proteins