Effector memory T-cell frequencies in relation to tumour stage, location and HPV status in HNSCC patients


Correspondence: Erik Hooijberg, Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, VUMC-CCA 2.26, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 (0)20 4444041, Fax: +31 (0)20 4442964, E-mail: erik.hooijberg@vumc.nl



The immune system plays an important role in tumour immune surveillance. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients are often immune compromised.


To chart the baseline levels of T-cell subpopulation frequencies in patients with cancer prior to treatment.

Subjects and methods

Blood samples of patients were taken at the time of diagnosis, analysed with flowcytometry and compared with blood samples of healthy donors.


Compared to healthy donors, a significant shift from naive to effector memory T cells was observed. This effect was most prominent in stage II patients. A similar shift from naive to effector memory T cells was noted in patients with oropharynx or larynx squamous cell carcinomas. Furthermore, the percentage of effector memory and effector T cells was higher in the group of patients with human papillomavirus-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas, compared with patients with human papillomavirus-negative tumours, suggestive of virus-induced T-cell activation.


Here, we provide a simple and easily implementable tool to document T lymphocyte subsets in the peripheral blood of head and neck cancer patients, which might be useful for prognosis and/or therapy response prediction.