Immune cells and cytokines: Their role in cancer immunotherapy

D. J. Verbik, S. S. Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Conventional cancer therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, are not always successful in providing long-term survival for cancer patients. One of the major problems with conventional cancer therapies is their inability to eradicate residual/metastatic tumor cells that are resistant to therapy. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new methods for treating such cancer cells in order to improve the clinical outcome of these patients. Despite antitumor effector mechanisms working against cancer cells in the host's body, tumor-cell-induced immunosuppression and or antigenic modulation by the tumor cells often help tumor cells escape host defense mechanisms. Therefore, one approach for treating residual cancer would be to enhance the host's own immunological/antitumor defense mechanisms. Immune cells that have a significant role in mediating antitumor responses include: T lymphocytes; natural killer (NK) cells; macrophages; and B lymphocytes. The ability of these immune cells to effectively destroy malignant cells is carefully governed by chemical mediators in the form of proteins otherwise known as cytokines. Many cytokines (interleukins, interferons, and tumor necrosis factor) have been shown to enhance in vitro and in vivo effector cell antitumor cytotoxic activities. Utilization of cytokines in conjunction with effector cells can also mediate significant antitumor responses in both animal models and cancer patients. One of the major problems associated with systemic treatment with cytokines is the development of dose limiting toxicities. Currently, attempts to reduce this problem include developing techniques to allow for the preferential release of cytokines in proximity to the tumor cell. In this regard, effector cells or tumor cells that have been genetically engineered to secrete cytokine(s) may be useful in localizing an immune response, preferably at the tumor site. Clinical trial using cytokine gene transfected cells for treating cancer are currently under investigation. With the availability of recombinant lymphokines and with our ability to genetically modify effector cells and tumor cells this hopefully will allow us to improve current therapeutic modalities for treating cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-223
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995


  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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