Tumor immunity in patients with primary intracranial tumors was assessed in relation to the general status of host immunocompetence. Lymphocyte sensitization to tumor-specific membrane antigens was demonstrated by the proliferative response of lymphocytes in the presence of autochthonous tumor cells. Paradoxically, one-half of the patients could not be sensitized to a primary antigen, dinitrochlorobenzene; existing delayed hypersensitivity was also depressed, as measured by skin tests and lymphocyte transformation in response to common antigens.
A heat-stable factor in patients' sera blocked cell-mediated tumor immunity. In addition, these "enhancing" sera consistently suppressed the blastogenic response of autologous and homologous lymphocytes to phytohemagglutinin and to membrane antigens on allogeneic cells in the one-way mixed lymphocyte culture. When patients' leukocytes were washed and autologous plasma replaced with normal plasma, reactivity in the mixed lymphocyte culture increased to normal values.
In vitro immunosuppressive activity in patients' plasma or sera correlated with depressed delayed hypersensitivity. After removal of the tumor, suppressor activity disappeared. IgG fractions of patient sera contained strong immunosuppressive activity. These data suggest that the suppressor factor may be an isoantibody elicited by the tumor that also binds to receptors on the lymphocyte membrane. In addition to specifically blocking cell-mediated tumor immunity, enhancing sera may broadly depress host immunocompetence.