Purpose: Phenotypic and functional features of myeloid suppressor cells (MSC), which are known to serve as critical regulators of antitumor T-cell responses in tumor-bearing mice, are still poorly defined in human cancers. Here, we analyzed myeloid subsets with suppressive activity present in peripheral blood of metastatic melanoma patients and evaluated their modulation by a granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) -based antitumor vaccine. Patients and Methods: Stage IV metastatic melanoma patients (n = 16) vaccinated with autologous tumor-derived heat shock protein peptide complex gp96 (HSPPC-96) and low-dose GM-CSF provided pre- and post-treatment whole blood specimens. Peripheral-blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were analyzed by flow cytometry, separated into cellular subsets, and used for in vitro proliferation assays. PBMCs from stage-matched metastatic melanoma patients (n = 12) treated with non-GM-CSF-based vaccines (ie, HSPPC-96 alone or interferon alfa/melanoma-derived peptides) or sex- and age-matched healthy donors (n = 16) were also analyzed for comparison. Results: The lack of or low HLA-DR expression was found to identify a CD14+ cell subset highly suppressive of lymphocyte functions. CD14+HLA-DR-/lo cells were significantly expanded in all metastatic melanoma patients, whereas they were undetectable in healthy donors. Suppressive activity was mediated by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), whereas no involvement of the arginase and inducible nitric oxide synthase pathways could be detected. CD14+HLA-DR-/lo cells, as well as spontaneous ex vivo release and plasma levels of TGF-β, were augmented after administration of the HSPPC-96/GM-CSF vaccine. No enhancement of the CD14+-mediated suppressive activity was found in patients receiving non-GM-CSF-based vaccines. Conclusion: CD14+HLA-DR-/lo cells exerting TGF-β-mediated immune suppression represent a new subset of MSC potentially expandable by the administration of GM-CSF-based vaccines in metastatic melanoma patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research