Mutually exclusive lymphangiogenesis or perineural infiltration in human skin squamous-cell carcinoma

Oncotarget. 2021 Mar 30;12(7):638-648. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.27915.


Although tumor-associated lymphangiogenesis correlates with metastasis and poor prognosis in several cancers, it also supports T cell infiltration into the tumor and predicts favorable outcome to immunotherapy. The role of lymphatic vessels in skin squamous-cell carcinoma (sSCC), the second most common form of skin cancer, remains mostly unknown. Although anti-PD-1 therapy is beneficial for some patients with advanced sSCC, a greater understanding of disease mechanisms is still needed to develop better therapies. Using quantitative multiplex immunohistochemistry, we analyzed sSCC sections from 36 patients. CD8+ T cell infiltration showed great differences between patients, whereby these cells were mainly excluded from the tumor mass. Similar to our data in melanoma, sSCC with high density of lymphatic endothelial cells showed increased CD8+ T cell density in tumor areas. An entirely new observation is that sSCC with perineural infiltration but without metastasis was characterized by low lymphatic endothelial cell density. Since both, metastasis and perineural infiltration are known to affect tumor progression and patients' prognosis, it is important to identify the molecular drivers, opening future options for therapeutic targeting. Our data suggest that the mechanisms underlying perineural infiltration may be linked with the biology of lymphatic vessels and thus stroma.

Keywords: CD8+ T cell; lymphatic vessel; perineural infiltration; skin squamous-cell carcinoma; tumor immunology.