CD40 activation as potential tool in malignant neoplasms

Alessandro Ottaiano, Carmela Pisano, Anna De Chiara, Paolo Antonio Ascierto, Gerardo Botti, Emiddio Barletta, Gaetano Apice, Cesare Gridelli, Vincenzo Rosario Iaffaioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: CD40, a cell surface molecule, is expressed on B-cell malignancies and many different solid tumors. It is capable of mediating diverse biological phenomena such as the induction of apoptosis in tumors and stimulation of the immune response. It has thus been studied as a possible target for antitumor therapy. The general aim of this review is to focus the attention of clinical oncologists on the involvement of CD40 in tumors and the rationale of CD40-activation-based therapies in new, biologically oriented antitumor protocols. Methods: A Medline review of published papers about the role of CD40 activation in cancer therapy. Results: Many authors have shown that CD40 activation promotes apoptotic death of tumor cells and that the presence of the molecule on the surface of carcinoma lines is an important factor in the generation of tumor-specific T-cell responses that contribute to tumor cell elimination. The CD40 ligand (CD40L) is the natural ligand for CD40; it is expressed primarily on the surface of activated T lymphocytes. Preclinical studies suggest that CD40-CD40L interaction could be useful for cytotoxicity against CD40-expressing tumors and for immune stimulation. Tumor inhibition was observed when tumor cells were treated with agonistic anti-CD40 monoclonal antibodies or with the soluble form of CD40L. The results of the first phase I clinical trial to treat cancer patients with subcutaneous injection of recombinant human CD40L have been recently reported. Immunohistochemical studies have revealed that detection of CD40 in primary cutaneous malignant melanoma and lung cancer may have a negative prognostic value. Interestingly, up-regulation of CD40 was observed in the tumor vessels of renal carcinomas and Kaposi's sarcoma, suggesting possible involvement of CD40 in tumor angiogenesis. Recently, it has also been shown that CD40 engagement, on endothelial cells induces in vitro tubule formation and expression of matrix metalloproteinases, two processes involved in the neovascularization and progression of tumors. Conclusions: CD40 activation represents an exciting target for hematological malignancies and solid tumors expressing the molecule, but its functional role in cancer development still remains unclear and controversial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-366
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002


  • CD40
  • CD40L
  • RhuCD40L
  • TRAF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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