Induced and natural regulatory T cells in human cancer
Introduction: Evidence suggests that FOXP3(+)CD25(high)CD4(+) regulatory T cells (Treg) which accumulate in cancer may have beneficial or unfavorable effects on prognosis. The presence in tumor-associated inflammatory infiltrates of two subsets of Treg with distinct phenotypic and functional profiles might explain these conflicting observations. Areas covered: Human inducible (i) Treg arising by tumor-driven conversion of conventional CD4(+) T cells are highly suppressive, therapy-resistant Treg which down-regulate anti-tumor immune responses, promoting tumor growth. Natural (n) Treg, normally responsible for maintaining peripheral tolerance, control cancer-associated inflammation, which favors tumor progression. This division of labor between nTreg and iTreg is not absolute, and overlap may be common. Nevertheless, iTreg play a critical and major role in cancer and cancer therapy. The tumor microenvironment determines the type, frequency and suppression levels of accumulating Treg. Expert opinion: In cancer, a selective removal or silencing of iTreg and not of nTreg should be a therapeutic goal. However, the implementation of this challenging strategy requires further studies of cellular and molecular crosstalk among immune cells in the tumor microenvironment.