Journal article Open Access

CD4 T cells in tumor immunity

Gerloni, Mara; Zanetti, Maurizio

T cell immunity is the key to protective immune responses against tumors. Traditionally, this function has been ascribed to CD8 T lymphocytes with cytotoxic activity, which are restricted by MHC class I molecules. In recent years the realization that CD4 T cells can also play a relevant role in protective anti-tumor responses has received growing attention. Here we will discuss the role of MHC class II-restricted T cells in response to, and in the regulation of, tumor antigens. Emphasis will be placed on four areas: (1) the role of CD4 T cell immunity in tumor protection in animal models and putative mode of action, (2) tumor antigens recognized by human CD4 T cells, (3) the cooperation between two CD4 T cells of different specificity as a new way to jump start the response against sub-immunogenic determinants of tumor antigens in a tolerant environment, and (4) the negative impact of regulatory CD4 T cells on anti-tumor T cell responses. By drawing attention to these four areas, it is our intention to provide the reader with a comprehensive view of issues of contemporary importance for this field, in the expectation that the information will help a better design of therapeutic cancer vaccines.

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