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PURPOSE: Radiotherapy can result in lymphopenia, which has been linked to poorer survival. Here, we test the hypothesis that radiotherapy-induced lymphopenia is mediated by a tumor-secreted factor, Galectin-1 (Gal-1), which possesses T-cell proapoptotic activities. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Matched Gal-1 wild-type (WT) or null mice were implanted with Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC-1) that either expressed Gal-1 or had Gal-1 stably downregulated. Tumors were irradiated locally and circulating Gal-1 and T cells were measured. Tumor growth, lung metastasis, intratumoral T-cell apoptosis, and microvessel density count were quantified. Thiodigalactoside (TDG), a Gal-1 inhibitor, was used to inhibit Gal-1 function in another group of mice to validate the observations noted with Gal-1 downregulation. Lymphocyte counts, survival, and plasma Gal-1 were analyzed in cohorts of radiotherapy-treated lung [non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)] and head and neck cancer patients. RESULTS: LLC irradiation increased Gal-1 secretion and decreased circulating T cells in mice, regardless of host Gal-1 expression. Inhibition of tumor Gal-1 with either shRNA or thiodigalactoside ablated radiotherapy-induced lymphopenia. Irradiated shGal-1 tumors showed significantly less intratumoral CD8(+) T-cell apoptosis and microvessel density, which led to marked tumor growth delay and reduced lung metastasis compared with controls. Similar observations were made after thiodigalactoside treatment. Radiotherapy-induced lymphopenia was associated with poorer overall survival in patients with NSCLC treated with hypofractionated radiotherapy. Plasma Gal-1 increased whereas T-cell decreased after radiation in another group of patients. CONCLUSIONS: Radiotherapy-related systemic lymphopenia appeared to be mediated by radiotherapy-induced tumor Gal-1 secretion that could lead to tumor progression through intratumoral immune suppression and enhanced angiogenesis.

Original publication

DOI

10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1138

Type

Journal article

Journal

Clin Cancer Res

Publication Date

01/11/2014

Volume

20

Pages

5558 - 5569

Keywords

Animals, Apoptosis, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Carcinoma, Lewis Lung, Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung, Cell Line, Tumor, Galectin 1, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Lymphopenia, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Thiogalactosides