Inflammation and desmoplasia are frequently identified in the tumor microenvironment, and have been demonstrated to be effective modulators of malignant biological events. However, the mechanisms by which the inflammatory microenvironment and interstitial fibrosis interact with one another remain to be elucidated. The present study aimed to investigate the degree of inflammation and interstitial fibrosis in tongue squamous cell carcinoma (TSCC), and how this acts to affect the outcome of TSCC. Tissue samples from 93 cases of TSCC and paired tumor-adjacent non-neoplastic tongue epithelium, as well as 14 cases of epithelial dysplasia, were used. Interstitial collagen fibers were assessed using Masson's trichrome stain. Immunohistochemical identification of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and stroma-infiltrating B cells was performed via detection of α-smooth muscle actin (SMA), vimentin, desmin and cluster of differentiation 19 (CD19). The clinicopathological significance and overall survival of the TSCC patients were statistically analyzed. Regularly distributed CAFs and CD19+ B cells were identified in the TSCC stroma, whereas no CAFs or CD19+ B cells were observed in epithelial dysplasia samples or paired tumor-adjacent non-neoplastic tongue epithelium samples. The distribution of interstitial collagen fibers and CAFs was closely associated with the tumor stage of the primary cancer, and high levels of CD19+ B cells together with low CAF infiltration were identified to be associated with favorable prognosis in TSCC. In conclusion, the inflammatory and interstitial fibrotic microenvironments coexist in TSCC, and each has specific effects on disease outcome, individually or perhaps collectively. However, it remains to be determined exactly how the microenvironments affect one another in TSCC.
Keywords: cancer-associated fibroblasts; inflammatory microenvironment; interstitial fibrosis; stroma-infiltrating B cells; tongue squamous cell carcinoma.