Generation and regulation of human CD4+ IL-17-producing T cells in ovarian cancer
Despite the important role of Th17 cells in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases, their prevalence and the mechanisms by which they are generated and regulated in cancer remain unclear. Here, we report the presence of a high percentage of CD4(+) Th17 cells at sites of ovarian cancer, compared with a low percentage of Th17 cells in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy donors and cancer patients. Analysis of cytokine production profiles revealed that ovarian tumor cells, tumor-derived fibroblasts, and antigen-presenting cells (APCs) secreted several key cytokines including IL-1beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha and TGF-beta, which formed a cytokine milieu that regulated and expanded human IL-17-producing T-helper (Th17) cells. We further show that IL-1beta was critically required for the differentiation and expansion of human Th17 cells, whereas IL-6 and IL-23 may also play a role in the expansion of memory Th17 cells, even though IL-23 levels are low or undetectable in ovarian cancer. Further experiments demonstrated that coculture of naïve or memory CD4(+) T cells with tumor cells, APCs, or both could generate high percentages of Th17 cells. Treatment with anti-IL-1 alone or a combination of anti-IL-1 and anti-IL-6 reduced the ability of tumor cells to expand memory Th17 cells. Thus, we have identified a set of key cytokines secreted by ovarian tumor cells and tumor-associated APCs that favor the generation and expansion of human Th17 cells. These findings should accelerate efforts to define the function of this important subset of CD4(+) T cells in the human immune response to cancer.