Mao Y, Poschke I, Wennerberg E, Pico de Coaña Y, Egyhazi Brage S, Schultz I, Hansson J, Masucci G, Lundqvist A, Kiessling R
Cancer Res. 73 (13) 3877-3887 [2013-07-01; online 2013-04-30]
Tumors can suppress the host immune system by employing a variety of cellular immune modulators, such as regulatory T cells, tumor-associated macrophages, and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC). In the peripheral blood of patients with advanced stage melanoma, there is an accumulation of CD14(+)HLA-DR(lo/-) MDSC that suppress autologous T cells ex vivo in a STAT-3-dependent manner. However, a precise mechanistic basis underlying this effect is unclear, particularly with regard to whether the MDSC induction mechanism relies on cell-cell contact of melanoma cells with CD14(+) cells. Here, we show that early-passage human melanoma cells induce phenotypic changes in CD14(+) monocytes, leading them to resemble MDSCs characterized in patients with advanced stage melanoma. These MDSC-like cells potently suppress autologous T-cell proliferation and IFN-γ production. Notably, induction of myeloid-suppressive functions requires contact or close proximity between monocytes and tumor cells. Further, this induction is largely dependent on production of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) because its inhibition in these MDSC-like cells limits their ability to suppress T-cell function. We confirmed our findings with CD14(+) cells isolated from patients with advanced stage melanoma, which inhibited autologous T cells in a manner relying up prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), STAT-3, and superoxide. Indeed, PGE2 was sufficient to confer to monocytes the ability to suppress proliferation and IFN-γ production by autologous T cells ex vivo. In summary, our results reveal how immune suppression by MDSC can be initiated in the tumor microenvironment of human melanoma.