The unfavorable clinical evolution in indolent non-Hodgkin lymphomas suggests defective control of neoplastic growth by the immune system. To address this issue, we evaluated phenotype, function, and maturation profile of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from peripheral-blood, lymph nodes, or bone marrow of patients with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) at diagnosis. T cells from these patients frequently showed an activated but apoptosis-prone phenotype with low frequency of tumor-reactive T cells showing a TH2/Tc2 functional profile in the response to autologous tumor. In peripheral blood or in lymph nodes and bone marrow, and, in comparison to healthy donors, patients' T cells showed a skewed differentiation toward Tnaive and Tcentral memory stages, with low expression of granzyme B and perforin. T-cell culture with autologous tumor in the presence of IL-2, IL-15, and autologous bone marrow-derived cells led to massive T-cell expansion and to differentiation of cytotoxic factor+ CD8+ T cells releasing IFN-γ and killing autologous B-cell tumor in an HLA-class I-restricted fashion. These results suggest impaired T-cell differentiation to effector stage in patients with B-cell NHL, but indicate that T-cell responsiveness to γc cytokines is retained, thus allowing to promote generation of antitumor T cells for immune intervention.
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