Immune dysfunction develops in patients with many cancer types and may contribute to tumor progression and failure of immunotherapy. Mechanisms underlying cancer-associated immune dysfunction are not fully understood. Efficient IFN signaling is critical to lymphocyte function; animals rendered deficient in IFN signaling develop cancer at higher rates. We hypothesized that altered IFN signaling may be a key mechanism of immune dysfunction common to cancer. To address this, we assessed the functional responses to IFN in peripheral blood lymphocytes from patients with 3 major cancers: breast cancer, melanoma, and gastrointestinal cancer. Type-I IFN (IFN-alpha)-induced signaling was reduced in T cells and B cells from all 3 cancer-patient groups compared to healthy controls. Type-II IFN (IFN-gamma)-induced signaling was reduced in B cells from all 3 cancer patient groups, but not in T cells or natural killer cells. Impaired-IFN signaling was equally evident in stage II, III, and IV breast cancer patients, and downstream functional defects in T cell activation were identified. Taken together, these findings indicate that defects in lymphocyte IFN signaling arise in patients with breast cancer, melanoma, and gastrointestinal cancer, and these defects may represent a common cancer-associated mechanism of immune dysfunction.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0901329106
View details for PubMedID 19451644