Background: It is unclear why human papillomavirus (HPV)-related head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has improved clinical behavior compared to HPV-negative HNSCC. We sought to better characterize the immune microenvironment of tongue cancers by examining the CD3 and CD8 TIL pattern in HPV-positive and HPV-negative tumors. Methods: Histologic sections from 40 oral tongue and oropharyngeal cases were analyzed (n=21 HPV DNA-positive, n=19 HPV DNA-negative). CD3 and CD8 T-cell immunostaining were performed on whole-slide sections to quantify tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) density and assess its morphology. Results: A subset of cases (HPV-positive) displayed a unique TIL pattern consisting of circumferential peritumoral population T cells, which was absent in the HPV-negative cases. The presence of peritumoral cuffing was strongly predictive of improved recurrence-free survival compared to cases that lacked this morphologic pattern of immune infiltrate. Four HPV-positive cases lacked the pattern, including two cases with disease recurrence. Conclusions: For the first time, we show an architectural pattern of immune infiltrate in HNSCC is seen exclusively in HPV-positive patients with improved recurrence-free survival and suggests an organized host immunological response contributes to disease control.
- tongue SCC
- tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Oral Surgery
- Cancer Research