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Keywords:

  • cytotoxic T lymphocytes;
  • dendritic cells;
  • lymph nodes;
  • regulatory T cells;
  • squamous cell carcinoma

Background

Deficient immune response in the cervical lymph nodes of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma may contribute to dissemination of metastatic neoplastic cells. This study evaluates the immune response in cervical lymph nodes from patients with primary oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC).

Methods

The density of immature (CD1a+) and mature (CD83+) dendritic cells (DCs), cytotoxic T lymphocytes CD8+/perforin+ (CTLs), and Foxp3+ regulatory T (Tregs) cells in the lymph nodes of patients with OCSCC without cervical lymph node metastases (LN1) (negative) (n = 10) were identified through immunohistochemistry. From patients with cervical lymph node metastases, samples were obtained of lymph nodes both with (LM2) (positive) (n = 10) and without (LN2) (negative) (n = 10) metastases.

Results

The results demonstrated that the number of CD1a+ and Foxp3+ cells was significantly higher in the LM2 group than in either the LN1 or the LN2 group. In addition, the number of CD8+/perforin+ and CD83+ cells was significantly lower in the LM2 group than in the other groups.

Conclusion

The results of this study demonstrate a higher density of immature DCs and Tregs cells and a lower density of mature DCs and activated CTLs in metastatic than in non-metastatic lymph nodes. These findings might indicate an immunosuppressive microenvironment, which could be involved in the spread of neoplastic cells to cervical lymph nodes.