How can tumors be targeted using immunocytokines?

Cytokines are circulating proteins secreted by immune cells as well as other tissue cells to communicate perturbations in the environment and regulate immune responses. These pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signals can be autocrine, paracrine, or endocrine. There is ample evidence showing that immunocytokines are involved in tumor targeting and infiltration including interferons (INF) and members of the interleukin (IL) family of proteins.1 Persistent cancer cells which evade immune detection or develop immunogenic resistance subsist in part due to aberrations in cytokine signaling. The suppression of MHC class I diminishes antigen specificity of tumor cells and impairs cytotoxic T-cells, which are primarily responsible for targeting them. As MHC-deficient cells progress towards malignancy, they are instead targeted by Natural Killer (NK) lymphoid cells. These innate NK cells are more efficacious in pursuing tumor cells when cytokines such as IL-12 and IL-18 are boosted.2 The development of effective cytokine-based immunotherapy is ongoing and will benefit from further elucidation of critical signaling pathways used by cytokine receptors and the identification of biomarkers to predict which tumor types are most likely to respond. Immunocytokine therapy can also be used synergistically in combination with other molecular-targeted treatment and has tremendous potential to become a major pillar of immunotherapy. For an expanded view on immunotherapy and related topics please visit our resource center here.

1. S. Lee and K. Margolin, "Cytokines in Cancer Immunotherapy," Cancers 3: 3856-3893, 2011.
2. M. Ardonlino et al, "Cytokine Treatment in Cancer Immunotherapy," Oncotarget 6(23): 19346-19347, 2015.