• cytokines;
  • haematology;
  • neutropenia;
  • T cell



The degree of immunosuppression in patients with haematological malignancies treated with chemotherapy is routinely measured as number of circulating cells (preferable neutrophils) in peripheral blood. A parallel decline in the number of T cells is expected, but a possible alteration in their functionality has been less well explored. The ability of T cells to secrete more than one cytokine simultaneously is known to indicate protective immunity. The aim of this study was to determine whether the function of circulating T cells is altered in patients with chemotherapy-induced neutropenia.

Design, setting and subjects

In this cross-sectional study, we used the FluoroSpot assay to investigate the proportion of T cells secreting either interferon-γ or interleukin-2, or both cytokines simultaneously, after anti-CD3 stimulation. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 53 adult patients with chemotherapy-induced neutropenia and 20 healthy individuals were investigated.


There were significantly fewer T cells secreting interferon-γ in patients with neutropenia compared with healthy control subjects (= 0.02), but the difference was greatest for dual cytokine-secreting T cells (= 0.001). Furthermore, the amount of secreted cytokine per T cell appeared to be reduced in patients, compared with control subjects.


Our results suggest that the functionality of T cells is altered in patients with haematological malignancies with chemotherapy-induced neutropenia. In parallel with a decline in T cell count, this may further increase the risk of severe infections.