Dendritic cells (DCs) capture apoptotic tumors and cross-present their antigens in the MHC class I and class II pathways for recognition by CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes. Here we have tested the ability of fresh surgically resected colon and gastric cancer tumors to specifically activate host T lymphocytes when presented by autologous DCs. METHODS: DCs derived from adherent blood mononuclear cells of five patients, after a 7-day culture with GM-CSF and IL-4, were exposed to apoptotic autologous tumor (AAT) or apoptotic autologous peritumor normal (AAN) cells and cultured 24 h with monocyte-conditioned medium to achieve full DC maturation. Tumor-specific response was evaluated as single-cell cytokine release in an enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) and as cytotoxicity in a cold target inhibition (51)Cr-release assay. RESULTS: AAT-DCs induced specific IFN-gamma by T lymphocytes of two patients (rectal and gastric cancer), whereas in another two patients (rectal and gastric cancer) this response was depressed with a similar tumor-specific pattern and in one patient (rectal cancer) there was no response. Activation of IFN-gamma release was accompanied by tumor cytotoxicity and both responses were enhanced by IL-12, indicating the functional integrity of patients' lymphocytes. CONCLUSION: These data show that T-cell memory against rectal/gastric carcinoma antigens can be triggered by tumor-loaded autologous DCs. However, escape mechanisms may exist among tumors of the same histological origin that can inhibit this host response. A DC-based antitumor immunological monitoring assay with autologous tumor biopsies may allow patients to be screened to determine those who are suitable candidates for immune-based immunotherapy.
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