A fundamental problem of antitumor immunity is tumor-induced immunosuppression. Tumor cells often down-regulate expression of co-stimulatory molecules, tumor antigens, and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules on tumor cells, secrete immunosuppressive substance such as transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) or interleukin-4 (IL-4), and induce apoptosis of effector T cells to escape surveillance. A major goal of antitumor or antivirus immunotherapy is to generate long-lived protective T cells that enable killing of target cells. In this review, we discuss the importance of 4-1BB for development or survival of functionally active effector CD8+ T cells against tumors, virus infection, and allogeneic immune responses and for potential therapeutic application.
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