Immune Profiling of Vulvar Squamous Cell Cancer Discovers a Macrophage-rich Subtype Associated with Poor Prognosis

Cancer Res Commun. 2024 Mar 21;4(3):861-875. doi: 10.1158/2767-9764.CRC-22-0366.


The incidence rates of vulvar squamous cell cancer (VSCC) have increased over the past decades, requiring personalized oncologic approaches. Currently, lymph node involvement is a key factor in determining prognosis and treatment options. However, there is a need for additional immune-related biomarkers to provide more precise treatment and prognostic information. Here, we used IHC and expression data to characterize immune cells and their spatial distribution in VSCC. Hierarchical clustering analysis identified distinct immune subtypes, of which the macrophage-rich subtype was associated with adverse outcome. This is consistent with our findings of increased lymphogenesis, lymphatic invasion, and lymph node involvement associated with high macrophage infiltration. Further in vitro studies showed that VSCC-associated macrophages expressed VEGF-A and subsequently induced VEGF-A in the VSCC cell line A-431, providing experimental support for a pro-lymphangiogenic role of macrophages in VSCC. Taken together, immune profiling in VSCC revealed tumor processes, identified a subset of patients with adverse outcome, and provided a valuable biomarker for risk stratification and therapeutic decision making for anti-VEGF treatment, ultimately contributing to the advancement of precision medicine in VSCC.

Significance: Immunoprofiling in VSCC reveals subtypes with distinct clinical and biological behavior. Of these, the macrophage-rich VSCC subtype is characterized by poor clinical outcome and increased VEGF-A expression, providing a biomarker for risk stratification and therapeutic sensitivity.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vulvar Neoplasms* / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A