Immunosuppressive cells, mainly myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and T regulatory cells, downregulate antitumour immunity and cancer immunotherapy. MDSCs are a heterogeneous group of immature myeloid cells that negatively regulate the immune responses during tumour progression, inflammation and infection. Whilst there have been extensive laboratory investigations aimed at characterising the MDSC subsets in cancer, there remains a significant gap in our understanding of their phenotypical and functional heterogeneity. In this article, we review data concerning the phenotypical and functional role of MDSCs in cancers. Importantly, we analyse the value of MDSCs as a prognostic factor in various clinical settings and the possible therapeutic approaches towards elimination of their immunosuppressive activity and enhancement of beneficial antitumour immune responses. MDSCs promote tumour immune evasion by inhibiting T-cell responses, as well as by supporting tumour progression. Accumulation of MDSCs is associated with the progression of human cancers, and their elimination was shown to improve anti-tumour immune responses. Phenotypical characterisation of MDSCs has been poorly investigated in many human cancers and lacks comprehensive clinicopathological correlation data. Although the need for effective therapeutic agents to eliminate the MDSC suppressive effect is immense, their role has been examined only in a few clinical settings.
Immunology and Cell Biology (2013) 91, 493–502