Intraepithelial macrophage infiltration is related to a high number of regulatory T cells and promotes a progressive course of HPV-induced vulvar neoplasia

Int J Cancer. 2015 Feb 15;136(4):E85-94. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29173. Epub 2014 Sep 15.


Human papilloma virus (HPV)-induced usual-type vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (uVIN) is infiltrated by myeloid cells but the type and role of these cells is unclear. We used triple immunofluorescent confocal microscopy to locate, identify and quantify myeloid cells based on their staining pattern for CD14, CD33 and CD163 in a cohort of 43 primary and 20 recurrent uVIN lesions, 21 carcinomas and 26 normal vulvar tissues. The progressive course of uVIN is characterized by an increase in both intraepithelial and stromal mature M1 and M2 macrophages. While the M2 macrophages outnumber M1 macrophages in healthy controls and uVIN, they are matched in number by M1 macrophages in cancer. Importantly, uVIN patients with a dense intraepithelial infiltration with mature CD14+ macrophages (irrespective of M1 or M2 type) displayed approximately a six times higher risk to develop a recurrence and a high number of these cells constituted an independent prognostic factor for recurrence. In addition, a dense intraepithelial CD14+ cell infiltration was associated with high numbers of intraepithelial CD4+ Tregs and low numbers of stromal CD8+TIM3+ T cells. Patients with low numbers of intraepithelial CD14+ cells and high numbers of stromal CD8+TIM3+ cells showed the best recurrence-free survival. These data clearly show the importance of the local immune response in HPV-induced vulvar neoplasia and may be of help in predicting the prognosis of patients or their response to immunotherapy.

Keywords: CD14; HPV; macrophages; usual VIN; vulvar carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma in Situ / immunology*
  • Carcinoma in Situ / mortality
  • Carcinoma in Situ / virology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / physiology*
  • Transendothelial and Transepithelial Migration
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / mortality
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / virology
  • Young Adult