PDAC (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma) is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death. The causes of this cancer remain unknown, but increasing evidence indicates a key role of the host immune response and cytokines in human carcinogenesis. Intra-tumoral IL (interleukin)-22 levels have been shown to be elevated in PDAC patients. However, little is known regarding the expression and clinical relevance of Th22 cells in human PDAC and, furthermore, which TILs (tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes) are the main producers of IL-22 is unknown. In the present study, we characterized the functional proprieties of the different subsets of IL-22-producing TILs and analysed their relationship with the TNM staging system and patient survival. We have demonstrated for the first time that, in PDAC patients, the T-cells co-producing IFN-γ (interferon γ) and exerting perforin-mediated cytotoxicity are the major intra-tumoral source of IL-22. In addition, isolated Th22 cells were able to induce apoptosis, which was antagonized by IL-22. Finally, we observed that the IL-22-producing T-cells were significantly increased in tumour tissue and that this increase was positively correlated with TNM staging of PDAC and poorer patient survival. These novel findings support the dual role of the anti-tumour immune system and that IL-22-producing cells may participate in PDAC pathogenesis. Therefore monitoring Th22 levels could be a good diagnostic parameter, and blocking IL-22 signalling may represent a viable method for anti-PDAC therapies.

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