Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast: friends or foes?

Mod Pathol. 2018 Jul;31(7):1012-1025. doi: 10.1038/s41379-018-0030-x. Epub 2018 Feb 20.


In the past three decades, the detection rate of ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast has dramatically increased due to breast screening programs. As a consequence, about 20% of all breast cancer cases are detected in this early in situ stage. Some ductal carcinoma in situ cases will progress to invasive breast cancer, while other cases are likely to have an indolent biological behavior. The presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes is seen as a promising prognostic and predictive marker in invasive breast cancer, mainly in HER2-positive and triple-negative subtypes. Here, we summarize the current understanding regarding immune infiltrates in invasive breast cancer and highlight recent observations regarding the presence and potential clinical significance of such immune infiltrates in patients with ductal carcinoma in situ. The presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, their numbers, composition, and potential relationship with genomic status will be discussed. Finally, we propose that a combination of genetic and immune markers may better stratify ductal carcinoma in situ subtypes with respect to tumor evolution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

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