Genomic Variations in Pancreatic Cancer and Potential Opportunities for Development of New Approaches for Diagnosis and Treatment
Natural killer (NK) cells play a key role in non-specific immune response in different cancers, including pancreatic cancer. However the anti-tumor effect of NK cells decreases during pancreatic cancer progression. The regulatory pathways by which NK cells facilitate tumor immune escape are unclear, therefore our purpose was to investigate the roles of the contributory factors. NK cells isolated from fresh healthy peripheral blood were co-cultured with normal human pancreatic ductal cells hTERT-HPNE and human pancreatic cancer cell lines SW1990 and BxPc-3 in vitro. Then NK cell function was determined by Flow cytometric analysis of surface receptors and cytotoxic granules in NK cells, NK cell apoptosis and cytotoxicity, and Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of cytokines. Expression level of MMP-9, IDO and COX-2 in hTERT-HPNE and SW1990 cells were detected by quantitative RT-PCR. Statistical differences between data groups were determined by independent t-tests using SPSS 19.0 software. Our results showed that NK cell function was significantly downregulated following exposure to pancreatic cancer cells compared to normal pancreatic cells, as demonstrated by lower expressions of activating surface receptors (NKG2D, DNAM-1, NKp30 and NKp46) and cytotoxic granules (Perforin and Granzyme B); decreased secretion of cytokines (TNF-α and IFN-γ); and reduced cytotoxicity against myelogenous leukemia K562 cells. Further investigations revealed that MMP-9 and IDO may be implicated in SW1990 cell-induced NK cell dysfunction by facilitating tumor immune evasion. Blockade by TIMP-1 and/or 1-MT could partially restore NK function. Taken together, elevation of MMP-9 and IDO induced by pancreatic cancer cells mediates NK cell dysfunction. Our findings could contribute to the development of NK cell-based immunotherapy in patients with pancreatic cancer.