The immune microenvironment of breast ductal carcinoma in situ

Mod Pathol. 2016 Mar;29(3):249-58. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2015.158. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


The host immune response has a key role in breast cancer progression and response to therapy. However, relative to primary invasive breast cancers, the immune milieu of breast ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is less understood. Here, we profile tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and expression of the immune checkpoint ligand programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) in 27 cases of DCIS with known estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER-2) expression using tissue microarrays. Twenty-four cases were pure DCIS and three had associated invasive ductal carcinoma. Tumors were stained by immunohistochemistry for PD-L1, as well as the lymphocyte markers CD3, CD4, CD8, FoxP3, and CD20. The expression of PD-L1 by DCIS carcinoma cells and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes was determined, and the average tumor infiltrating lymphocytes per high power field were manually scored. None of the DCIS cells expressed PD-L1, but 81% of DCIS lesions contained PD-L1+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. DCIS with moderate-diffuse tumor infiltrating lymphocytes was more likely to have PD-L1+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (P=0.004). Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes with high levels of PD-L1 expression (>50% cells) were seen only in triple-negative DCIS (P=0.0008), and PD-L1-tumor infiltrating lymphocytes were seen only in ER+/HER-2-DCIS (P=0.12). The presence of PD-L1+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes was associated with a younger mean patient age (P=0.01). Further characterization of the DCIS immune microenvironment may identify useful targets for immune-based therapy and breast cancer prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor