Human Tumor-Infiltrating Dendritic Cells: From in Situ Visualization to High-Dimensional Analyses

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Jul 30;11(8):1082. doi: 10.3390/cancers11081082.


The interaction between tumor cells and the immune system is considered to be a dynamic process. Dendritic cells (DCs) play a pivotal role in anti-tumor immunity owing to their outstanding T cell activation ability. Their functions and activities are broad ranged, triggering different mechanisms and responses to the DC subset. Several studies identified in situ human tumor-infiltrating DCs by immunostaining using a limited number of markers. However, considering the heterogeneity of DC subsets, the identification of each subtype present in the immune infiltrate is essential. To achieve this, studies initially relied on flow cytometry analyses to provide a precise characterization of tumor-associated DC subsets based on a combination of multiple markers. The concomitant development of advanced technologies, such as mass cytometry or complete transcriptome sequencing of a cell population or at a single cell level, has provided further details on previously identified populations, has unveiled previously unknown populations, and has finally led to the standardization of the DCs classification across tissues and species. Here, we review the evolution of tumor-associated DC description, from in situ visualization to their characterization with high-dimensional technologies, and the clinical use of these findings specifically focusing on the prognostic impact of DCs in cancers.

Keywords: RNA-seq; cytometry; dendritic cells; immune signatures; prognosis; single cell RNA-seq.

Publication types

  • Review