The evaluation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in breast cancer: recommendations by an International TILs Working Group 2014

Ann Oncol. 2015 Feb;26(2):259-71. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu450. Epub 2014 Sep 11.


Background: The morphological evaluation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in breast cancer (BC) is gaining momentum as evidence strengthens for the clinical relevance of this immunological biomarker. Accumulating evidence suggests that the extent of lymphocytic infiltration in tumor tissue can be assessed as a major parameter by evaluation of hematoxylin and eosin (H&E)-stained tumor sections. TILs have been shown to provide prognostic and potentially predictive value, particularly in triple-negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-overexpressing BC.

Design: A standardized methodology for evaluating TILs is now needed as a prerequisite for integrating this parameter in standard histopathological practice, in a research setting as well as in clinical trials. This article reviews current data on the clinical validity and utility of TILs in BC in an effort to foster better knowledge and insight in this rapidly evolving field, and to develop a standardized methodology for visual assessment on H&E sections, acknowledging the future potential of molecular/multiplexed approaches.

Conclusions: The methodology provided is sufficiently detailed to offer a uniformly applied, pragmatic starting point and improve consistency and reproducibility in the measurement of TILs for future studies.

Keywords: breast cancer (BC); clinical validity; prediction; prognosis; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs).

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating*