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Paradoxical Roles of IL-4 in Tumor Immunity


Interleukin (IL)-4 is a crucial cytokine in tumor immunology. In the initial murine experiments, IL-4 exhibited potent anti-tumor ability. Tumors genetically modified to produce IL-4 were rejected, while parental tumors grew progressively. Mice rejected IL-4-producing tumors got long-lasting anti-tumor immunity. The comparative study showed that IL-4 induced the most effective immune response among several cytokines in both prophylactic and therapeutic models. All of these indicate IL-4 has strong potential as a tumor therapy agent. However, contrary evidence indeed exists, and is becoming more and more abundant which shows IL-4 is a tumor-promoting molecule. IL-4 amounts are usually elevated in human cancer patients. IL-4 knockout mice are more resistant to tumor challenge than IL-4 competent mice. Furthermore, tumor cells of various histological origins often express increased levels of IL-4 receptor in comparison to their normal counterparts. By carefully examining presently available data, we found the effects of IL-4 in tumor immunity are closely related to its sources, expressing time and dose, as well as the molecular and cellular environments. In this mini-review, we concentrate on illustrating the paradoxical roles and underlying mechanisms of IL-4 in tumor immunity and try to understand how one molecule has opposite effects.

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Correspondence to Zhihai Qin.

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Li, Z., Chen, L. & Qin, Z. Paradoxical Roles of IL-4 in Tumor Immunity. Cell Mol Immunol 6, 415–422 (2009).

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  • endogenous IL-4
  • exogenous IL-4
  • tumor immunity

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