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Eicosanoids and the immunology of cancer


Studies in both cancer patients and in animal tumor models have shown that immune defenses can mediate destruction of tumor, but these defenses are often functioning at a suppressed or suboptimal level. Frequently, prostaglandins, mainly PGE2, have been implicated in this tumor-associated subversion of immune function, with immune reactivities to tumor typically being enhanced by prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor. Both the tumor and tumor-induced host immune suppressive macrophages have the capacity to suppress immune functions through their production of PGE2. Although the inhibitory functions have been more widely studied, recent evaluations of the effects of PGE2 have led to the surprising realization that not all of the PGE2's effects are inhibitory to immune function. Summarized below are some of the well characterized inhibitory effects of PGE2, as well as the lesser studied stimulatory effects of PGE2 toward the effector cells that are considered to be important in the immune defense against cancer.

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Young, M.R.I. Eicosanoids and the immunology of cancer. Cancer Metast Rev 13, 337–348 (1994).

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Key words

  • prostaglandin
  • PGE2
  • immune regulation
  • immunosuppression
  • immune suppressor cells
  • tumor