Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Tumors use various mechanisms to avoid immune destruction. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression may be a driver of immune suppression in melanoma, but the mechanisms involved remain elusive. Here, we show that COX-2 expression drives constitutive expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) in human tumor cells. IDO1 is an immunosuppressive enzyme that degrades tryptophan. In a series of seven human tumor lines, constitutive IDO1 expression depends on COX-2 and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which, upon autocrine signaling through the EP receptor, activates IDO1 via the PKC and PI3K pathways. COX-2 expression itself depends on the MAPK pathway, which therefore indirectly controls IDO1 expression. Most of these tumors carry PI3K or MAPK oncogenic mutations, which may favor constitutive IDO1 expression. Celecoxib treatment promoted immune rejection of IDO1-expressing human tumor xenografts in immunodeficient mice reconstituted with human allogeneic lymphocytes. This effect was associated with a reduced expression of IDO1 in those ovarian SKOV3 tumors and an increased infiltration of CD3+ and CD8+ cells. Our results highlight the role of COX-2 in constitutive IDO1 expression by human tumors and substantiate the use of COX-2 inhibitors to improve the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, by reducing constitutive IDO1 expression, which contributes to the lack of T-cell infiltration in "cold" tumors, which fail to respond to immunotherapy. Cancer Immunol Res; 5(8); 695-709. ©2017 AACR.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer immunology research

Publication Date





695 - 709


Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Brussels, Belgium.


CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating, Cell Line, Tumor, Animals, Humans, Mice, Ovarian Neoplasms, Dinoprostone, Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Female, Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase, Cyclooxygenase 2, Celecoxib