First published February 7, 2019 - More info
Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) often presents with metastases and ascites. Granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells are an immature population that impairs anti-tumor immunity. Since suppressive granulocytes in the ascites of patients with newly diagnosed EOC were morphologically mature, we hypothesized that PMN were rendered suppressive in the tumor microenvironment. Circulating PMN from patients were not suppressive, but acquired a suppressor phenotype (defined as ≥ 1 log10 reduction of anti-CD3/CD28-stimulated T cell proliferation) after ascites supernatant exposure. Ascites supernatants (20/31) recapitulated the suppressor phenotype in PMN from healthy donors. T cell proliferation was restored with ascites supernatant removal and re-stimulation. PMN suppressors also inhibited T cell activation and cytokine production. PMN suppressors completely suppressed proliferation in naïve, central memory, and effector memory T cells, and in engineered tumor antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes, while antigen-specific cell lysis was unaffected. Inhibition of complement C3 activation and PMN effector functions, including CR3 signaling, protein synthesis, and vesicular trafficking, abrogated the PMN suppressor phenotype. Moreover, malignant effusions from patients with various metastatic cancers also induced the C3-dependent PMN suppressor phenotype. These results point to PMN impairing T cell expansion and activation in the tumor microenvironment and the potential for complement inhibition to abrogate this barrier to anti-tumor immunity.