This study investigated the phenotype of freshly isolated human tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from 14 patients with colorectal tumours, and compared them with lymphocytes derived from the lamina propria of the unaffected mucosa and with lymphocytes derived from peripheral blood of the same patients. It was found that TIL expressed the activation markers CD25 and HLA-DR to a higher extent than the peripheral blood lymphocytes (p = 0.01), and that both lamina propria lymphocytes and TIL preferentially expressed the CD45RO + phenotype, associated with memory cells, in contrast with peripheral blood lymphocytes [corrected]. Both lamina propria lymphocytes and TIL contained few natural killer (NK) cells (CD3-CD56+) compared with peripheral blood lymphocytes (p = 0.001), and this was reflected in the cytotoxicity assays. After 1 to 2 weeks in culture with interleukin-2 100 U/ml, lymphocytes from all three compartments had a high cytolytic activity against all targets tested, consistent with the lymphokine activated killer cell phenomenon. No increase in the number of NK cells was noted after culture, but 20-30% of the T cells now coexpressed the CD56 molecule. This was most prominent in the CD8+ subset, but lymphokine activated killer cell activity was found in both CD4+ and CD8+ subsets. Possible tumour escape mechanisms are discussed.
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