Purpose: To assess how neoadjuvant chemoradiation regimens modulate the immune system state in tumor-draining lymph nodes (TDLN), in the setting of advanced cervical cancer.
Methods and materials: Tumor-draining lymph nodes of patients undergoing chemotherapy only (nonirradiated, NI-TDLN) and chemoradiation with lower-dose (39.6 Gy, LD-TDLN) and higher-dose radiation (50 Gy, HD-TDLN) were analyzed by multicolor flow cytometry.
Results: Enlarging our previous data, LD-TDLN showed features overall indicative of an enhanced antitumor response as compared with NI-TDLN, namely a significant Th1 and Tc1 polarization and a lower amount of the potent CD4(+)Foxp3(+)CD25(high) regulatory T cell (Treg) subset identified by neuropilin-1 expression. Conversely, compared with NI-TDLN, HD-TDLN showed features overall indicative of an impaired antitumor response, namely a significantly inverted CD4/CD8 cell ratio, a higher Nrp1(+)Treg frequency, and a higher frequency of CCR4(+)Treg, a Treg subset facilitated in migrating out from TDLN to suppress the immune response against distant cancer cells. Moreover, the Th1 and Tc1 polarization induced by LD radiation was lost, and there was an unfavorable tolerogenic/immunogenic dendritic cell ratio compared with LD-TDLN.
Conclusions: Even minor differences in radiation dose in neoadjuvant regimens for locally advanced cervical cancer are crucial for determining the balance between a tolerogenic and an efficacious antitumor immune response in TDLN. Because most of the anticancer immune response takes place in TDLN, the present findings also emphasize the importance of chemoradiation protocols in the context of immunotherapeutic trials.