The MYC Oncogene is a Global Regulator of the Immune Response

Stephanie C. Casey, Virginie Baylot and Dean W. Felsher


The MYC proto-oncogene is a gene product that coordinates the transcriptional regulation of a multitude of genes that are essential to cellular programs required for normal as well as neoplastic cellular growth and proliferation, including cell cycle, self-renewal, survival, cell growth, metabolism, protein and ribosomal biogenesis, and differentiation. Here we propose that MYC regulates these programs in a manner that is coordinated with a global influence on the host immune response. MYC had been presumed to contribute to tumorigenesis through tumor cell intrinsic influences. More recently, MYC expression in tumor cells has been shown to regulate the tumor microenvironment through effects on both innate and adaptive immune effector cells and immune regulatory cytokines. Then, MYC was shown to regulate the expression of the immune checkpoint gene products CD47 and PD-L1. Similarly, other oncogenes, which are known to modulate MYC, have been shown to regulate immune checkpoints. Hence, MYC may generally prevent highly proliferative cells from eliciting an immune response. MYC-driven neoplastic cells have coopted this mechanism to bypass immune detection. Thus, MYC inactivation can restore the immune response against a tumor. MYC-induced tumors may be particularly sensitive to immuno-oncology therapeutic interventions.

  • Submitted November 27, 2017.
  • Accepted March 2, 2018.