Delicate Balance among Three Types of T Cells in Concurrent Regulation of Tumor Immunity

Liat Izhak, Elena Ambrosino, Shingo Kato, Stanley T. Parish, Jessica J. O'Konek, Hannah Weber, Zheng Xia, David Venzon, Jay A. Berzofsky*, Masaki Terabe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The nature of the regulatory cell types that dominate in any given tumor is not understood at present. Here, we addressed this question for regulatory T cells (Treg) and type II natural killer T (NKT) cells in syngeneic models of colorectal and renal cancer. In mice with both type I and II NKT cells, or in mice with neither type of NKT cell, Treg depletion was sufficient to protect against tumor outgrowth. Surprisingly, in mice lacking only type I NKT cells, Treg blockade was insufficient for protection. Thus, we hypothesized that type II NKT cells may be neutralized by type I NKT cells, leaving Tregs as the primary suppressor, whereas in mice lacking type I NKT cells, unopposed type II NKT cells could suppress tumor immunity even when Tregs were blocked. We confirmed this hypothesis in 3 ways by reconstituting type I NKT cells as well as selectively blocking or activating type II NKT cells with antibody or the agonist sulfatide, respectively. In this manner, we showed that blockade of both type II NKT cells and Tregs is necessary to abrogate suppression of tumor immunity, but a third cell, the type I NKT cell, determines the balance between these regulatory mechanisms. As patients with cancer often have deficient type I NKT cell function, managing this delicate balance among 3 T-cell subsets may be critical for the success of immunotherapy for human cancer?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1514-1523
JournalCancer Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


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