Background: Oral squamous cell carcinomas are often heavily infiltrated by immune cells. The organization of B-cells, follicular dendritic cells, T-cells and high-endothelial venules into structures termed tertiary lymphoid structures have been detected in various types of cancer, where their presence is found to predict favourable outcome. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the incidence of tertiary lymphoid structures in oral squamous cell carcinomas, and if present, analyse whether they were associated with clinical outcome.
Methods: Tumour samples from 80 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma were immunohistochemically stained for B-cells, follicular dendritic cells, T-cells, germinal centre B-cells and high-endothelial venules. Some samples were sectioned at multiple levels to assess whether the presence of tertiary lymphoid structures varied within the tumour.
Results: Tumour-associated tertiary lymphoid structures were detected in 21 % of the tumours and were associated with lower disease-specific death. The presence of tertiary lymphoid structures varied within different levels of a tissue block.
Conclusions: Tertiary lymphoid structure formation was found to be a positive prognostic factor for patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma. Increased knowledge about tertiary lymphoid structure formation in oral squamous cell carcinoma might help to develop and guide immune-modulatory cancer treatments.
Keywords: B-cell; Follicular dendritic cell; Germinal centre; High-endothelial venule; Oral squamous cell carcinoma; Prognostic factor; Tertiary lymphoid structure.