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Combinations of TLR ligands: a promising approach in cancer immunotherapy.

Toll-like receptors (TLRs), a family of pattern recognition receptors recognizing molecules expressed by pathogens, are typically expressed by immune cells. However, several recent studies revealed functional TLR expression also on tumor cells. Their expression is a two-sided coin for tumor cells. Not only tumor-promoting effects of TLR ligands are described but also direct oncopathic and immunostimulatory effects. To clarify TLRs' role in colorectal cancer (CRC), we tested the impact of the TLR ligands LPS, Poly I:C, R848, and Taxol on primary human CRC cell lines (HROC40, HROC60, and HROC69) in vitro and in vivo (CT26). Taxol, not only a potent tumor-apoptosis-inducing, but also TLR4-activating chemotherapeutic compound, inhibited growth and viability of all cell lines, whereas the remaining TLR ligands had only marginal effects (R848 > LPS > Poly I:C). Combinations of the substances here did not improve the results, whereas antitumoral effects were dramatically boosted when human lymphocytes were added. Here, combining the TLR ligands often diminished antitumoral effects. In vivo, best tumor growth control was achieved by the combination of Taxol and R848. However, when combined with LPS, Taxol accelerated tumor growth. These data generally prove the potential of TLR ligands to control tumor growth and activate immune cells, but they also demonstrate the importance of choosing the right combinations.

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