Tumor-educated Tregs drive organ-specific metastasis in breast cancer by impairing NK cells in the lymph node niche

Kevin Kos, Muhammad A. Aslam, Rieneke van de Ven, Max D. Wellenstein, Wietske Pieters, Antoinette van Weverwijk, Danique E. M. Duits, Kim van Pul, Cheei-Sing Hau, Kim Vrijland, Daphne Kaldenbach, Elisabeth A. M. Raeven, Sergio A. Quezada, Rudi Beyaert, Heinz Jacobs, Tanja D. de Gruijl, Karin E. de Visser

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Breast cancer is accompanied by systemic immunosuppression, which facilitates metastasis formation, but how this shapes organotropism of metastasis is poorly understood. Here, we investigate the impact of mammary tumorigenesis on regulatory T cells (Tregs) in distant organs and how this affects multi-organ metastatic disease. Using a preclinical mouse mammary tumor model that recapitulates human metastatic breast cancer, we observe systemic accumulation of activated, highly immunosuppressive Tregs during primary tumor growth. Tumor-educated Tregs show tissue-specific transcriptional rewiring in response to mammary tumorigenesis. This has functional consequences for organotropism of metastasis, as Treg depletion reduces metastasis to tumor-draining lymph nodes, but not to lungs. Mechanistically, we find that Tregs control natural killer (NK) cell activation in lymph nodes, thereby facilitating lymph node metastasis. In line, an increased Treg/NK cell ratio is observed in sentinel lymph nodes of breast cancer patients compared with healthy controls. This study highlights that immune regulation of metastatic disease is highly organ dependent.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110447
JournalCell Reports
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • NK cells
  • T
  • breast cancer
  • immunosuppression
  • lymph nodes
  • metastasis
  • organotropism

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