Aims: The infiltration of Langerhans cells in adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the lung was examined in relation to prognostic implications and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
Methods and results: Samples from 62 adenocarcinoma and 59 squamous cell carcinoma patients in 1995–97, the prognosis of which had been followed up, were used. The Langerhans cells were demonstrated immunohistochemically using anti S100a and CD1 antibodies. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection was examined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and nonisotopic in-situ hybridization (NISH) methods. Statistical analysis was carried out using the Kaplan–Meier method (Wilcoxon analysis) and multiple regression analysis. HPV infection was demonstrated in 12 cases (19.4%) of adenocarcinoma. The HPV-infected adenocarcinomas had abundant faintly eosinophilic cytoplasm, and were immunohistochemically positive for the surfactant apoprotein A. In the 59 cases of squamous cell carcinomas 19 were of the well differentiated form, and 29 and 11 were moderately and poorly differentiated cases, respectively. HPV was detected in 29 cases (49.2%) (13 well and 16 moderately differentiated cases). In all HPV-infected adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma cases, extremely large numbers of Langerhans cells (more than 100 per high-power field) were demonstrated in the tumour nests. In contrast, in the non-HPV-infected adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, only a few (less than about 10 per high-power field) Langerhans cells were observed. The squamous cell carcinoma cases with high Langerhans cell infiltration, which were also infected with HPV, showed a significantly good prognosis (P = 0.007). The adenocarcinoma cases with high Langerhans cell infiltration tended to have a better prognosis than the cases with low Langerhans cell infiltration, but the difference was not statistically significant. The low number of highly infiltrated cases was insufficient for an adequate statistical analysis. Furthermore, there was no significant correlation between either Langerhans cell infiltration and smoking, or HPV infection and smoking, in either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma cases.
Conclusions: It was considered that the extremely high Langerhans cell infiltration in the tumours was caused by HPV infection. The extremely large number of Langerhans cells in the tumours contributes to the favourable prognosis for HPV-infected lung cancer.