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22.02.2018 | Focussed Research Review | Ausgabe 12/2018

Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy 12/2018

Mucosa-associated invariant T cells in malignancies: a faithful friend or formidable foe?

Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy > Ausgabe 12/2018
S. M. Mansour Haeryfar, Christopher R. Shaler, Patrick T. Rudak
Wichtige Hinweise
This paper is a Focussed Research Review based on a presentation given at the Fifth International Conference on Cancer Immunotherapy and Immunomonitoring (CITIM 2017), held in Prague, Czech Republic, 24th -27th April 2017. It is part of a series of Focussed Research Reviews and meeting report in Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy.


Mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a subset of innate-like T lymphocytes known for their ability to respond to MHC-related protein 1 (MR1)-restricted stimuli and select cytokine signals. They are abundant in humans and especially enriched in mucosal layers, common sites of neoplastic transformation. MAIT cells have been found within primary and metastatic tumors. However, whether they promote malignancy or contribute to anticancer immunity is unclear. On the one hand, MAIT cells produce IL-17A in certain locations and under certain circumstances, which could in turn facilitate neoangiogenesis, intratumoral accumulation of immunosuppressive cell populations, and cancer progression. On the other hand, they can express a potent arsenal of cytotoxic effector molecules, NKG2D and IFN-γ, all of which have established roles in cancer immune surveillance. In this review, we highlight MAIT cells’ characteristics as they might pertain to cancer initiation, progression, or control. We discuss recent findings, including our own, that link MAIT cells to cancer, with a focus on colorectal carcinoma, as well as some of the outstanding questions in this active area of research. Finally, we provide a hypothetical picture in which MAIT cells constitute attractive targets in cancer immunotherapy.

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