Background: The role of IL-17 producing cells in tumors is controversial. In the present study, we investigated the prognostic value of measuring tumor-infiltrating IL-17 producing cell levels in human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
Methodology/principal findings: Immunohistochemical staining was performed to investigate the levels of IL-17+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), as well as CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and CD57+ natural killer (NK) cells from 181 ESCC patients. The prognostic value of measuring the densities of IL-17+TILs and the correlation with CTLs and NK was evaluated. IL-17 producing cells were detected in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma tissues. The IL-17 producing cells were major CD4 positive, but Foxp3 negative. The median level of IL-17+TILs was 3.90 cells/high power microscopic field (HPF). The density of IL-17 producing cells correlated negatively with T stage (P=0.042). The higher densities of tumor infiltrating IL-17+ lymphocytes were associated with better overall survival (P=0.031). Furthermore, we found that there were positive correlations between levels of IL-17 producing cells and the densities of CD8+cells, as well as CD57+cells (r=0.198, P=0.008 for CD8+ cells and r=0.261, P<0.001 for CD57+ cells, respectively). The prognosis analysis also showed that the higher levels of CD8+ CTLs and CD57+ NK cells correlated with better overall survival of ESCC patients.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that tumor infiltrating IL-17 producing cells in ESCC patients may have protective roles in the tumor microenvironment and may be treated as a prognostic marker for ESCC patients.