Expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase predicts shorter survival in patients with vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (vSCC) not influencing on the recruitment of FOXP3-expressing regulatory T cells in cancer nests

Gynecol Oncol. 2011 Aug;122(2):307-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2011.04.050. Epub 2011 May 25.


Objective: Regulatory T cells (Tregs), and the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), have potential regulatory properties for immune escape in cancer. Inhibitors of IDO are available and could potentially be used in vulvar cancer if IDO was proved to drive progression of the disease. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of factor forkhead boxP3 (FOXP3), a marker of Tregs, and IDO in vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (vSCC), and to verify their prognostic significance.

Methods: 76 primary tumors and 35 lymph node metastases derived from 76 patients with full clinical history were analyzed. The intratumoral infiltration of Tregs and IDO expression within cancer were evaluated by immunohistochemistry.

Results: The number of Tregs in primary tumor and in corresponding lymph node metastasis was significantly correlated. Intensity of Treg infiltrates in the primary and metastatic sites was not correlated to IDO expression and had no influence on the overall patient survival. High IDO expression was associated with significantly worse overall survival among vSCC patients and was found to be an independent prognostic factor similarly to the tumor grade and patient's age.

Conclusions: The degree of intratumoral Treg infiltrates is an individual feature and remains stable throughout the course of the disease without impact on the patient's survival. IDO expression predicts shorter survival of vSCC patients. If immunologic tolerance of the tumor is promoted by the overexpression of IDO it will not influence the number of intratumoral Tregs. IDO expression seems to be an independent prognostic factor in patients with vSCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase / analysis
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / physiology*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / immunology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / mortality*


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase