It has previously been shown that mice exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV) fail to reject highly immunogenic UV-induced tumors, which are regularly rejected by normal mice. The present study shows, however, that this immunosuppresion is incomplete, as UV-treated mice can still mount certain tumor-specific immune responses and reject smaller inocula of tumor cells that regularly grow progressively in athymic nude mice. Furthermore, all tumor cell lines that were reisolated from the tumor mass resulting from one tumor passage through UV-treated recipients heritably lost a tumor-specific determinant present on the parental tumor cells used for transplantation, and a large percentage of these reisolated variant tumors had changed to progressively growing tumors, in that they were no longer rejected by normal mice. In contrast, none of the tumors reisolated from passage through athymic nude mice or anti-idiotypically suppressed mice showed this change in antigenicity and progressive growth behavior. Thus, it appears that the phenotypic change in tumors reisolated from UV-treated mice was caused by immunoselection, and that the tumor-specific immunity in these mice apparently restrained the outgrowth of the parental tumor cells despite the partial immunosuppression. Because of the regularity at which tumor variants arose in the UV-treated mice after tumor transplantation, it appears that the partial immunosuppression caused by UV-treatment may have favored the outgrowth of antigenic variants from the parental tumor cell population, possibly by allowing more time for the generation of tumor variants. A similar immunoselection process might be part of tumor progression during tumor development and preferentially occur in cancer-bearing individuals showing concomitant tumor immunity.

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