Objective: The objective of our study was to compare immunocyte infiltrates in vulval epithelium from low-grade and high-grade vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) lesions to determine if difference in T-cell presence reflected the grade of VIN.
Material and methods: Thirty-six vulval specimens were obtained from 24 patients who had previously undergone vulval biopsies for VIN, 14 high-grade diseases (VIN 3 with or without HPV) and 14 low-grade diseases (VIN 1 and VIN 2 with or without HPV). Eight samples of normal vulval tissue were selected from the excision margins of resected vulval biopsies. The lymphocyte surface markers included CD3 (Pan T-cell marker), CD4 (T helper cells), and CD8 (T cytotoxic cells). Each tissue section was visualized under high power magnification and cells were counted in 10 random areas at the dermo-epidermal junction.
Results: A significantly higher number of total mean T lymphocytes were detected in VIN specimens compared to normal vulval tissue (P = 0.002). In low-grade VIN, there were significantly more CD8 cells than CD4 when compared to high-grade VIN. This difference in CD4/CD8 ratio was significant (P = 0.001).
Conclusions: This study suggests that increased CD8 response in VIN is a feature of low-grade disease and we speculate that this may be a protective mechanism. In high-grade disease, both CD4 cells and CD8 cells are equally present with preservation of normal CD4/CD8 ratio.