Macro-environmental factors, including a patient's physical and social environment, play a role in cancer risk and progression. Our previous studies show that living in an enriched environment (EE) providing complex stimuli confers an anticancer phenotype in mice mediated in part by a specific neuroendocrine axis, with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as the key brain mediator. Here we investigated how an EE modulated T-cell immunity and its role in the EE-induced anticancer effects. Our data demonstrated that CD8 T cells were required to mediate the anticancer effects of an EE in an orthotropic model of melanoma. In secondary lymphoid tissue (SLT), an EE induced early changes in the phenotype of T-cell populations, characterized by a decrease in the ratio of CD4 T helper to CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Overexpression of hypothalamic BDNF reproduced EE-induced T-cell phenotypes in SLT whereas knockdown of hypothalamic BDNF inhibited EE-induced immune modulation in SLT. Both propranolol and mifepristone blocked the EE-associated modulation of CTLs in SLT suggesting both the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis were involved. Our results demonstrated that enhanced anticancer effect of an EE was mediated at least in part through modulation of T-cell immunity and provided support to the emerging concept of manipulating a single gene in the brain to improve cancer immunotherapy.
- Received December 9, 2015.
- Revision received February 19, 2016.
- Accepted March 5, 2016.
- Copyright ©2016, American Association for Cancer Research.