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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The number and microlocalization of tumor-associated immune cells are associated with patient's survival time in non-small cell lung cancer

Fuqiang Dai12, Lunxu Liu1*, Guowei Che1, Nanbin Yu13, Qiang Pu1, Shangfu Zhang1, Junliang Ma1, Lin Ma1 and Zongbing You4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610041, China

2 Daping Hospital, the Third Military Medical University, Chongqing City, China

3 The Third People's Hospital of Zigong City, Sichuan Province, China

4 Departments of Structural & Cellular Biology and Orthopaedic Surgery, Tulane Cancer Center, LCRC, Tulane Center for Aging, Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:220  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-220

Published: 20 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Tumor microenvironment is composed of tumor cells, fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and infiltrating immune cells. Tumor-associated immune cells may inhibit or promote tumor growth and progression. This study was conducted to determine whether the number and microlocalization of macrophages, mature dendritic cells and cytotoxic T cells in non-small cell lung cancer are associated with patient's survival time.

Methods

Ninety-nine patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were included in this retrospective study. Paraffin-embedded NSCLC specimens and their clinicopathological data including up to 8-year follow-up information were used. Immunohistochemical staining for CD68 (marker for macrophages), CD83 (marker for mature dendritic cells), and CD8 (marker for cytotoxic T cells) was performed and evaluated in a blinded fashion. The numbers of immune cells in tumor islets and stroma, tumor islets, or tumor stroma were counted under a microscope. Correlation of the cell numbers and patient's survival time was analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (version 13.0).

Results

The numbers of macrophages, mature dendritic cells and cytotoxic T cells were significantly more in the tumor stroma than in the tumor islets. The number of macrophages in the tumor islets was positively associated with patient's survival time, whereas the number of macrophages in the tumor stroma was negatively associated with patient's survival time in both univariate and multivariate analyses. The number of mature dendritic cells in the tumor islets and stroma, tumor islets only, or tumor stroma only was positively associated with patient's survival time in a univariate analysis but not in a multivariate analysis. The number of cytotoxic T cells in the tumor islets and stroma was positively associated with patient's survival time in a univariate analysis but not in a multivariate analysis. The number of cytotoxic T cells in the tumor islets only or stroma only was not associated with patient's survival time.

Conclusions

The number of macrophages in the tumor islets or stroma is an independent predictor of survival time in NSCLC patients. Counting macrophages in the tumor islets or stroma is more useful in predicting patient's survival time than counting mature dendritic cells or cytotoxic T cells.