Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is one of most common cancers in urogenital organs. Although recent experimental and clinical studies have shown the immunogenic properties of ccRCC as illustrated by the clinical sensitivities to various immunotherapies, the detailed immunoregulatory machineries governing the tumorigenicity of human ccRCC remain largely obscure. In this study, we demonstrated the clinical significance and functional relevance of T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing molecule-3 (TIM-3) expressed on tumor cells and myeloid cells in patients with ccRCC. TIM-3 expression was detected on cancer cells and CD204+ tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), and higher expression level of TIM-3 was positively correlated with shorter progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with ccRCC. We found that TIM-3 expression was detected on a large number of tumors, and there was significant correlation between an increased number of TAMs and high expression level of TIM-3 in patients with ccRCC. Furthermore, TIM-3 rendered RCC cells with the ability to induce resistance to sunitinib and mTOR inhibitors, the standard regimen for patients with ccRCC, as well as stem cell activities. TIM-3 expression was induced on CD14+ monocytes upon long-term stimulation with RCC cells, and TIM-3-expressing myeloid cells play a critical role in augmenting tumorigenic activities of TIM-3-negative RCC cells. More importantly, treatment with anti-TIM-3 mAb suppressed its tumorigenic effects in in vitro and in vivo settings. These findings indicate the coordinated action of TIM-3 in cancer cells and in myeloid cells regulates the tumorigenicity of human RCC.
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