Microenvironmental conditions within solid tumors can have marked effects on the growth of the tumors and their response to therapies. The disorganized growth of tumors and their attendant vascular systems tends to result in areas of the tumors that are deficient in oxygen (hypoxic). Cells within these hypoxic areas are more resistant to conventional therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. Here, we examine the hypoxic state of EMT6 mouse mammary tumors and the location of host cells within the different areas of the tumors to determine whether such microenvironmental conditions might also affect their ability to be recognized by the immune system. Hypoxia within tumors was quantified by flow cytometry and visualized by immunohistochemistry using a monoclonal antibody (ELK3-51) against cellular adducts of 2-(2-nitro-1H-imidazol-1-yl)-N-(2,2,3,3,3-pentafluoropropyl)acetamide (EF5), a nitroimidazole compound that binds selectively to hypoxic cells. Thy-1+ cells, quantified using a monoclonal antibody, were found only in the well-oxygenated areas. The location of these Thy-1+ cells was also examined in EMT6 tumors that had been transfected with the gene for interleukin-2 (IL-2) because these tumors contain greatly increased numbers of host cells. Surprisingly, we found that IL-2-transfected tumors had significantly decreased hypoxia compared to parental tumors. Furthermore, using the fluorescent dye Hoechst 33342, an in vivo marker of perfused vessels, combined with immunochemical staining of PECAM-1 (CD31) as a marker of tumor vasculature, we found increased vascularization in the IL-2-transfected tumors. Thus, expression of IL-2 at the site of tumor growth may enhance tumor immunity not only by inducing the generation of tumor-reactive CTLs but also by allowing increased infiltration of activated T cells into the tumors.

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This work was supported by United States Public Health Service Grants CA52586 (to B. M. F.), CA28332 (to E. M. L.), and CA74071 (to C. J. K.).

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