Immunosuppressive regulatory T cells are associated with aggressive breast cancer phenotypes: a potential therapeutic target.

Department of Anatomic Pathology, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98195-6100, USA.
Modern Pathology (Impact Factor: 6.36). 10/2008; 21(12):1527-32. DOI: 10.1038/modpathol.2008.160
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT FoxP3 is a marker for immunosuppressive CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells. These regulatory T cells are thought to play a role in inducing immune tolerance to antigens and may be selectively recruited by carcinomas. We investigated whether breast carcinomas had significant numbers of FoxP3-positive regulatory T cells by immunohistochemistry, and if their presence was associated with other prognostic factors, such as Nottingham grade, hormone receptor immunohistochemical profile, tumor size, or lymph node metastases. Ninety-seven needle core or excisional breast biopsies with invasive breast carcinoma diagnosed at the University of Washington were stained with antibodies to FoxP3, estrogen receptor, and Her2/neu. The numbers of FoxP3-positive cells present within the neoplastic epithelium, and immediately adjacent stroma were counted manually in three high-powered fields (HPFs; x 400) by two independent pathologists. The average scores were then correlated with the parameters of interest. A threshold of >or=15 FoxP3-positive cells/HPF was used to define a FoxP3-positive case in some analyses. Higher average numbers of FoxP3-positive cells present significantly correlated with higher Nottingham grade status (P=0.000229). In addition, the presence of significant numbers (>or=15/HPF) of FoxP3-positive cells in breast carcinoma was positively associated with higher Nottingham grade (P=0.00002585). Higher average numbers of FoxP3-positive cells were also significantly associated with larger tumor size (>2.0 cm; P=0.012824) and trended toward an association with estrogen receptor negativity. Interestingly, 'triple-negative' (estrogen and progesterone receptor negative and Her2/neu negative) Nottingham grade III cases were also significantly associated with high numbers of FoxP3 cells. These results argue that regulatory T cells may play a role in inducing immune tolerance to higher grade, more aggressive breast carcinomas, and are a potential therapeutic target for these cancers.

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    ABSTRACT: Forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) is known as the most specific marker for regulatory T lymphocytes, which play an important role in immune tolerance to disturb antitumor immunity. The present study aimed to investigate the prognostic significance of Foxp3 regulatory T lymphocyte (Foxp3 Treg) infiltration in breast cancer. Immunohistochemical studies with Foxp3, CD4, and CD8 were performed on representative full tissue sections from 143 patients with invasive ductal carcinoma, not otherwise specified. Foxp3 Treg infiltration and the ratios between Foxp3 Treg and CD4 or CD8 T cells were separately analyzed for the tumor bed and tumor periphery to evaluate their association with different clinicopathological parameters and patients' outcome. The tumor periphery was considerably more densely infiltrated by Foxp3 Treg, CD4, and CD8 T cells than the tumor bed. Unfavorable clinicopathological parameters (a Ki-67 labeling index of ≥14%, a worse histologic grade, a worse nuclear grade, hormone receptor negativity, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positivity, and tumor recurrence) were associated with increased Foxp3 Treg infiltration and a high ratio between Foxp3 Treg and CD4/CD8 T cells. In the tumor periphery, as Foxp3 Treg infiltration and the Foxp3 Treg/CD8 ratio increased, patients' 5-year disease-free survival rate decreased. The infiltration densities of Foxp3 Treg, CD4, and CD8 T cells were markedly different between the tumor bed and periphery. Besides the absolute count of Foxp3 Treg, the ratio between Foxp3 Treg and effector T cells was a significant prognostic factor in breast cancer.
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