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The Good, the Bad and the Unknown of CD38 in the Metabolic Microenvironment and Immune Cell Functionality of Solid Tumors


December 24, 2019

Konen, Jessica


The regulation of the immune microenvironment within solid tumors has received increasing attention with the development and clinical success of immune checkpoint blockade therapies, such as those that target the PD-1/PD-L1 axis. The metabolic microenvironment within solid tumors has proven to be an important regulator of both the natural suppression of immune cell functionality and the de novo or acquired resistance to immunotherapy. Enzymatic proteins that generate immunosuppressive metabolites like adenosine are thus attractive targets to couple with immunotherapies to improve clinical efficacy. CD38 is one such enzyme. While the role of CD38 in hematological malignancies has been extensively studied, the impact of CD38 expression within solid tumors is largely unknown, though most current data indicate an immunosuppressive role for CD38. However, CD38 is far from a simple enzyme, and there are several remaining questions that require further study. To effectively treat solid tumors, we must learn as much about this multifaceted protein as possible—i.e., which infiltrating immune cell types express CD38 for functional activities, the most effective CD38 inhibitor(s) to employ, and the influence of other similarly functioning enzymes that may also contribute towards an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Gathering knowledge such as this will allow for intelligent targeting of CD38, the reinvigoration of immune functionality and, ultimately, tumor elimination.

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