Cytokine expression by head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

Am J Surg. 1992 Dec;164(6):567-73. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9610(05)80708-1.


Cytokines are known to play an important role in host defense by regulating the function, growth, and differentiation of the cells of the immune system. We hypothesize that, in the tumor microenvironment, tumor cells and resident tissue cells (e.g., fibroblasts) also produce cytokines that may regulate the local immune response to tumors. Initially, homogenates of eight head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) were assayed for the presence of interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to establish the presence of these cytokines in the tumors in vivo. We detected IL-1 in all tumor homogenates and IL-4, IL-6, and GM-CSF in some homogenates. To assess the ability of HNSCC to produce these cytokines, supernatants of short-term primary cultures of HNSCC were assayed for the same cytokines. No IL-1 was detected, although baseline levels of IL-4, IL-6, and GM-CSF were present. However, the stimulation of primary tumor cultures with exogenous IL-1 induced or significantly enhanced production of IL-4 (p < 0.01), IL-6 (p < 0.001), and GM-CSF (p < 0.02). These results support our hypothesis that HNSCC secrete cytokines that may influence the response of local immune cells. Our data also suggest that IL-1 may have a central role in regulating the local immune response through the enhancement or induction of cytokine production by tumor and/or resident tissue cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Culture Techniques
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / administration & dosage
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / analysis
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-1 / analysis
  • Interleukin-1 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-4 / analysis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects


  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Interleukin-4
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor