Premalignant lesions for many cancers have been identified, and efforts are currently directed toward identification of antigens expressed on these lesions that would provide suitable targets for vaccines for cancer prevention. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) are premalignant pancreatic cysts of which a subset has the potential to progress to cancer. Currently, there are no validated predictive markers for progression to malignancy. We hypothesized that the presence or absence of immune surveillance of these lesions would be one such factor. Here we show that the tumor antigen MUC1, which is abnormally expressed on pancreatic cancer and is a target for cancer immunosurveillance, is also abnormally expressed on premalignant IPMN. We show that some IPMN patients make MUC1-specific IgG. Moreover, we show evidence of CD4 and CD8 T cell infiltration into IPMN areas of high dysplasia suggesting an ongoing immune response within the lesions. We also found, however, increased levels of circulating myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) in some IPMN patients as well as evidence of T cell exhaustion. Further studies correlating immunosurveillance or immunosuppression with IPMN progression to malignancy will help define the immune response as a biomarker of risk, leading potentially to a vaccine to boost spontaneous immunity and prevent progression to cancer.
Immunobiology and immunosurveillance in patients with intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs), premalignant precursors of pancreatic adenocarcinomas.