IL-12 can target human lung adenocarcinoma cells and normal bronchial epithelial cells surrounding tumor lesions

Irma Airoldi, Emma Di Carlo, Claudia Cocco, Emanuela Caci, Michele Cilli, Carlo Sorrentino, Gabriella Sozzi, Silvano Ferrini, Sandra Rosini, Giulia Bertolini, Mauro Truini, Francesco Grossi, Luis Juan Vicente Galietta, Domenico Ribatti, Vito Pistoia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a leading cause of cancer death. We have shown previously that IL-12rb2 KO mice develop spontaneously lung adenocarcinomas or bronchioalveolar carcinomas. Aim of the study was to investigate i) IL-12R2b2 expression in human primary lung adenocarcinomas and in their counterparts, i.e. normal bronchial epithelial cells (NBEC), ii) the direct anti-tumor activity of IL-12 on lung adenocarcinoma cells in vitro and vivo, and the mechanisms involved, and iii) IL-12 activity on NBEC. Methodology/Principal Findings: Stage I lung adenocarcinomas showed significantly (P = 0.012) higher frequency of IL-12Rβ2 expressing samples than stage II/III tumors. IL-12 treatment of IL-12R+ neoplastic cells isolated from primary adenocarcinoma (n = 6) inhibited angiogenesis in vitro through down-regulation of different pro-angiogenic genes (e.g. IL-6, VEGF-C, VEGF-D, and laminin-5), as assessed by chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay and PCR array. In order to perform in vivo studies, the Calu6 NSCLC cell line was transfected with the IL-12RB2 containing plasmid (Calu6/β2). Similar to that observed in primary tumors, IL-12 treatment of Calu6/β2+ cells inhibited angiogenesis in vitro. Tumors formed by Calu6/β2 cells in SCID/NOD mice, inoculated subcutaneously or orthotopically, were significantly smaller following IL-12 vs PBS treatment due to inhibition of angiogenesis, and of IL-6 and VEGF-C production. Explanted tumors were studied by histology, immuno-histochemistry and PCR array. NBEC cells were isolated and cultured from lung specimens of non neoplastic origin. NBEC expressed IL-12R and released constitutively tumor promoting cytokines (e.g. IL-6 and CCL2). Treatment of NBEC with IL-12 down-regulated production of these cytokines. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that IL-12 inhibits directly the growth of human lung adenocarcinoma and targets the adjacent NBEC. These novel anti-tumor activities of IL-12 add to the well known immune-modulatory properties of the cytokine and may provide a rational basis for the development of a clinical trial.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6119
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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