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Keywords:

  • Melanoma;
  • T cells;
  • tumor immunity;
  • genetically engineered mouse model;
  • tumor microenvironment;
  • immune evasion;
  • myeloid suppressor cells

Summary

Genetically engineered mouse models offer new opportunities to investigate the role of cell-mediated immunity in the natural progression of melanoma in an immunocompetent host. Here we report that Hgf-Cdk4R24C mice spontaneously develop a spectrum of primary melanomas with high penetrance during their first year of life. Malignant transformation proceeds in a stepwise manner from multiple melanocytic nevi to single nodular melanomas and disseminated metastases in most mice. Migrating melanoma cells invade the draining lymph nodes without activating the immune system. Autochthonous primary tumors are destroyed following experimental introduction of immune surveillance using an adoptive lymphocyte transfer approach. However, some tumor cells are able to survive, evade immune cell control, and recur both locally and systemically. Immune tolerance in recurring tumors may be supported by immunosuppressive Gr1+ myeloid cells. Taken together, our results demonstrate that primary and metastatic melanomas developing spontaneously in Hgf-Cdk4R24C mice effectively evade cellular immune surveillance.