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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Granulocyte-macrophage stimulating factor (GM-CSF) increases circulating dendritic cells but does not abrogate suppression of adaptive cellular immunity in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer receiving chemotherapy

  • Author(s): Martinez, Micaela
  • Ono, Nadia
  • Planutiene, Marina
  • Planutis, Kestutis
  • Nelson, Edward L
  • Holcombe, Randall F
  • et al.

Abstract Background Advanced cancer and chemotherapy are both associated with immune system suppression. We initiated a clinical trial in patients receiving chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancer to determine if administration of GM-CSF in this setting was immunostimulatory. Methods Between June, 2003 and January, 2007, 20 patients were enrolled in a clinical trial (NCT00257322) in which they received 500 ug GM-CSF daily for 4 days starting 24 hours after each chemotherapy cycle. There were no toxicities or adverse events reported. Blood was obtained before chemotherapy/GM-CSF administration and 24 hours following the final dose of GM-CSF and evaluated for circulating dendritic cells and adaptive immune cellular subsets by flow cytometry. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) expression of γ-interferon and T-bet transcription factor (Tbx21) by quantitative real-time PCR was performed as a measure of Th1 adaptive cellular immunity. Pre- and post-treatment (i.e., chemotherapy and GM-CSF) samples were evaluable for 16 patients, ranging from 1 to 5 cycles (median 3 cycles, 6 biologic sample time points). Dendritic cells were defined as lineage (-) and MHC class II high (+). Results 73% of patients had significant increases in circulating dendritic cells of ~3x for the overall group (5.8% to 13.6%, p = 0.02) and ~5x excluding non-responders (3.2% to 14.5%, p < 0.001). This effect was sustained over multiple cycles for approximately half of the responders, but tachyphylaxis over subsequent chemotherapy cycles was noted for the remainder. Treatment also led to a significant reduction in the proportion of circulating regulatory T-cells (Treg; p = 0.0042). PBMC Tbx21 levels declined by 75% following each chemotherapy cycle despite administration of GM-CSF (p = 0.02). PBMC γ-interferon expression, however was unchanged. Conclusions This clinical trial confirms the suppressive effects of chemotherapy on Th1 cellular immunity in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer but demonstrates that mid-cycle administration of GM-CSF can significantly increase the proportion of circulating dendritic cells. As the role of dendritic cells in anti-tumor immunity becomes better defined, GM-CSF administration may provide a non-toxic intervention to augment this arm of the immune system for cancer patients receiving cytotoxic therapy. Trial Registration NCT00257322

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