Background: This study was performed in order to determine whether monocyte in vitro function is associated with presence, stage and prognosis of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) disease.
Methods: Prospective study describing outcome, after at least five years observation, of patients treated for HNSCC disease in relation to their monocyte function. Sixty-five patients with newly diagnosed HNSCC and eighteen control patients were studied. Monocyte responsiveness was assessed by measuring levels of monocyte in vitro interleukin (IL)-6 and monocyte chemotactic peptide (MCP)-1 secretion after 24 hours of endotoxin stimulation in cultures supplied either with 20% autologous serum (AS) or serum free medium (SFM). Survival, and if relevant, cause of death, was determined at least 5 years following primary diagnosis.
Results: All patients, as a group, had higher in vitro monocyte responsiveness in terms of IL-6 (AS) (t = 2.03; p < 0.05) and MCP-1 (SFM) (t = 2.49; p < 0.05) compared to controls. Increased in vitro monocyte IL-6 endotoxin responsiveness under the SFM condition was associated with decreased survival rate (Hazard ratio (HR) = 2.27; Confidence interval (CI) = 1.05-4.88; p < 0.05). The predictive value of monocyte responsiveness, as measured by IL-6, was also retained when adjusted for age, gender and disease stage of patients (HR = 2.67; CI = 1.03-6.92; p < 0.05). With respect to MCP-1, low endotoxin-stimulated responsiveness (AS), analysed by Kaplan-Meier method, predicted decreased survival (chi = 4.0; p < 0.05).
Conclusion: In HNSCC patients, changed monocyte in vitro response to endotoxin, as measured by increased IL-6 (SFM) and decreased MCP-1 (AS) responsiveness, are negative prognostic factors.