Aims: Interleukin-17 (IL-17) is a proinflammatory cytokine that is most prominently produced by T-helper type 17 (Th17) cells, a distinct CD4+ T-helper cell subset. The aim of this study was to investigate the level of IL-17-producing cells in the breast cancer tumour microenvironment and its prognostic role.
Methods and results: A total of 207 breast carcinoma specimens were assessed by IL-17 immunohistochemistry, and the findings were correlated with clinicopathological parameters. We found that increased numbers of IL-17-producing cells were correlated with high histological grade, negative ER/PR status, and triple-negative molecular subtypes segregated by immunoprofiles. However, they did not correlate with stage, tumour size, nodal status, HER2 status, or histological type. Patients with tumours with high numbers of IL-17-producing cells had shorter disease-free survival (DFS) than patients with tumours with low numbers of IL-17-producing cells (P < 0.01). In multivariate analysis, high IL-17 level [hazard ratio (HR) 2.24; 95% CI 1.06-4.75], advanced T stage (HR 2.73; 95% CI 1.30-5.73), positive HER2 status (HR 4.88; 95% CI 1.47-16.18) and triple-negative subtype (HR 7.46; 95% CI 1.38-40.36) were significant prognostic factors for DFS.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that a high level of IL-17-producing cells in the breast cancer tumour microenvironment is a poor prognostic factor.
Keywords: breast cancer; inflammation; interleukin-17; prognosis; tumour microenvironment.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.