The Different T-cell Receptor Repertoires in Breast Cancer Tumors, Draining Lymph Nodes, and Adjacent Tissues

Cancer Immunol Res. 2017 Feb;5(2):148-156. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-16-0107. Epub 2016 Dec 30.


T lymphocytes infiltrate the microenvironment of breast cancer tumors and play a pivotal role in tumor immune surveillance. Relationships between the T-cell receptors (TCR) borne by T cells within tumors, in the surrounding tissues, and in draining lymph nodes are largely unexplored in human breast cancer. Consequently, information about the relative extent of possible T-cell exchange between these tissues is also lacking. Here, we have analyzed the TCR repertoire of T cells using multiplex PCR and high-throughput sequencing of the TCRβ chain in the tissues of tumor, adjacent nontumor, and axillary lymph nodes of breast cancer patients. T-cell repertoire diversity in tumors was lower than in lymph nodes, but higher than in nontumor tissue, with a preferential use of variable and joining genes. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that most of the T cells in tumors derive from the lymph node, followed by their expansion in tumor tissue. Positive nodes appeared to enhance T-cell infiltration into tumors and T-cell clonal expansion in lymph nodes. Additionally, the similarity in TCR repertoire between tumor and nontumor tissue was significantly higher in luminal-like, rather than basal-like, breast cancer. Our study elucidated the high heterogeneity of the TCR repertoire and provides potential for future improvements in immune-related diagnosis, therapy, and prognosis for breast cancer patients. Cancer Immunol Res; 5(2); 148-56. ©2016 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Complementarity Determining Regions / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Complementarity Determining Regions
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta