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Mol Med. 1997 December; 3(12): 836–851.
PMCID: PMC2230280

Oligoclonality of CD8+ T cells in breast cancer patients.


Substantial evidence has suggested that T cells play an important role in antitumor immunity. T cells with cytotoxic activity against tumors have been isolated from in vitro culture of tumor-infiltrated lymphocytes of cancer patients. In addition, clonal expansions of T cells have been identified in lesions of tumors by using a PCR-based CDR3 analysis of T cell receptors (TCR). Since the CDR3 region of the T cell receptor directly interacts with the antigen-MHC complex and is thus highly polymorphic, a dominant CDR3 length in a particular TCR V beta population will indicate the clonal expansion of a specific T cell clone. Utilizing this technique, we have analyzed the T cell repertoire in lymph nodes (LNs) and peripheral blood of 20 breast cancer patients. Our results show that in most cases, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PB-MCs) and LN express dominant CD8+ T cell clones in different V beta gene families, and the number of dominant clones is higher in PBMC than in the LN. Furthermore, in 7 out of 16 patients' lymph nodes, there is a dominant V beta 18 T cell clonal expansion in the CD8+ T cell subset. The frequency of an oligoclonal expansion of V beta 18 CD8+ T cells in non-breast cancer lymph nodes is 1 out of 9, but no obvious motif in the CDR3 region of V beta 18 TCR can be identified. The prevalence of the clonal dominance found in breast cancer is discussed in the context of a possible tumor-related antigen stimulation.

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