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Recent results have shown a correlation between survival and frequency of tumour infiltrating T lymphocytes in colorectal cancer patients. However, it remains unclear whether the frequency of regulatory T cells is higher in colorectal cancer as compared to normal colon. To address this question we analysed the frequency and function of regulatory T cells in the peripheral blood and tumour infiltrating lymphocytes of colorectal cancer patients. The proportion of regulatory T cells in the peripheral blood of colorectal cancer patients (mean 8%) was significantly higher than that in normal controls (mean 2.2%). There were significantly more regulatory T cells in tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (mean 19.2%) compared to lymphocytes from an autologous non-malignant portion of the colon (mean 9%). Regulatory T cells from colorectal cancer patients were FOXP3 positive and suppressed the proliferation of autologous CD4+ CD25- cells. A higher density of tumour infiltrating regulatory T cells was found in patients with advanced as compared to early disease. These results support the hypothesis that increased numbers of regulatory T cells in the blood and tumours of colorectal cancer patients may influence the immune response against cancer and suggest that strategies to overcome regulatory T cell activity may be beneficial in the treatment of human colorectal cancer.


Journal article


Cancer Immun

Publication Date





Case-Control Studies, Colon, Colorectal Neoplasms, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Humans, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory