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Keywords:

  • dendritic cells;
  • cancer;
  • tolerance;
  • tumor immunity;
  • signal transduction

Summary: Indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) degrades the essential amino acid tryptophan in mammals, catalyzing the initial and rate-limiting step in the de novo biosynthesis nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Broad evidence implicates IDO and the tryptophan catabolic pathway in generation of immune tolerance to foreign antigens in tissue microenvironments. In particular, recent findings have established that IDO is overexpressed in both tumor cells and antigen-presenting cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes, where it promotes the establishment of peripheral immune tolerance to tumor antigens. In the normal physiologic state, IDO is important in creating an environment that limits damage to tissues due to an overactive immune system. However, by fostering immune suppression, IDO can facilitate the survival and growth of tumor cells expressing unique antigens that would be recognized normally as foreign. In preclinical studies, small-molecule inhibitors of IDO can reverse this mechanism of immunosuppression, complementing classical cytotoxic cancer chemotherapeutic agents' ability to trigger regression of treatment-resistant tumors. These results have encouraged the clinical translation of IDO inhibitors, the first of which entered phase I clinical trials in the fall of 2007. In this article, we survey the work defining IDO as an important mediator of peripheral tolerance, review evidence of IDO dysregulation in cancer cells, and provide an overview of the development of IDO inhibitors as a new immunoregulatory treatment modality for clinical trials.