Leukocyte infiltration and tumor cell plasticity are parameters of aggressiveness in primary cutaneous melanoma

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2008 Jan;57(1):97-106. doi: 10.1007/s00262-007-0353-9. Epub 2007 Jun 30.


Various clinical and experimental observations detected an immunological host defense in cutaneous melanoma. In order to investigate the prognostic value of leukocyte effector mechanisms, we examined the presence of different subsets of leukocytes in tumor samples of 58 patients diagnosed with primary cutaneous melanoma. The presence of T lymphocytes, cytotoxic T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, CD16+ cells and macrophages was correlated to Breslow depth. A significantly higher amount of several subsets of leukocytes was found in samples with a more progressed tumor stage and survival analysis demonstrated that a higher amount of T lymphocytes and CD16+ cells was associated with a short survival. The amount of FOXP3+ regulatory T lymphocytes did not correlate with survival, nevertheless, it correlated with the amount of total infiltrate. In contrast, analysis of the expression of CD69, a marker for activated lymphocytes, demonstrated that patients with a higher amount of CD69+ lymphocytes had a better survival. In addition, a new parameter for aggressiveness of melanoma, tumor cell plasticity [i.e., the presence of periodic acid Schiff's (PAS) reagent positive loops], also predicted short survival and a trend of a higher amount of tumor infiltrating leukocytes in tumors with PAS positive loops was observed. These findings demonstrate that leukocyte infiltration and the presence of PAS loops is a sign of tumor aggressiveness and may have prognostic value.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / blood supply
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Prognosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD69 antigen
  • Lectins, C-Type