Background: Chronic inflammation plays an important role in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). This study addresses the impact of two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) Asp299Gly and Thr399Ile of the toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 gene on the clinical outcome while accounting for the influence of adjuvant systemic therapy in a large cohort of HNSCC patients.
Methods: Genotype analysis was done using DNA from tissue samples from 188 patients with HNSCC; TLR4 protein expression was assessed immunohistochemically in tissue microarrays. Classical survival models were used for statistical analyses.
Results: Ten percent of patients with HNSCC presented with the TLR4 299Gly and 17% with the TLR4 399Ile allele. Patients with the heterozygous genotype TLR4 Asp299Gly had a significantly reduced disease-free and overall survival. Also, patients with the heterozygous genotype TLR4 Thr399Ile had a reduced disease-free survival. Notably, these associations seem to be attributable to relatively poor therapy response as e.g. reflected in a significantly shorter DFS among HNSCC patients carrying the Asp299Gly variant and receiving adjuvant systemic therapy.
Conclusion: According to this study, TLR4 299Gly und 399Ile alleles may serve as markers for prognosis of head and neck cancer in patients with adjuvant systemic therapy, particularly chemotherapy, and might indicate therapy resistance.