Intratumoral Niches of B Cells and Follicular Helper T Cells, and the Absence of Regulatory T Cells, Associate with Longer Survival in Early-Stage Oral Tongue Cancer Patients

Chumut Phanthunane, Rebecca Wijers, Maria J. De Herdt, Senada Koljenoyicc, Stefan Sleijfer, Robert J. Baatenburg de Jong, Jose Angelito U. Hardillo, Reno Debets, Hayri E. Balcioglu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Simple Summary The 5-year survival of patients with early-stage oral cancer remains at 80% despite advances in treatment. We have previously shown that the proximity between CD20 B cells and CD4 T cells in the invasive margin acts as an independent prognosticator in OSCC, represented by the so-called CD20 cluster score. However, its exact underlying cellular contexture is unknown. In this study, we demonstrated that the abundance of follicular helper T cells as well as the proximity between these cells and B cells were important hallmarks for patients with a high CD20 cluster score and long survival. In early oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), the occurrence of clusters between CD20 B cells and CD4 T cells in the invasive margin (IM) can be captured by using the CD20 cluster score, and is positively associated with patient survival. However, the exact contribution of different CD4 T cell subsets, as well as B cell subsets toward patient prognosis is largely unknown. To this end, we studied regulatory T cells ((Treg cells) FOXP3 and CD4), T helper-type 1 cells ((Th1 cells) Tbet and CD4), follicular helper T cells ((Tfh cells) Bcl6 and CD4), B cells (CD20), germinal center B cells ((GC B cells) BCL6 and CD20), and follicular dendritic cells ((fDCs) CD21) for their density, location, and interspacing using multiplex in situ immunofluorescence of 75 treatment-naive, primary OSCC patients. We observed that Treg, Th1-, Tfh-, and GC B cells, but not fDCs, were abundantly present in the stroma as compared with the tumor, and in the IM as compared with in the center of the tumor. Patients with high CD20 cluster scores had a high density of all three CD4 T cell subsets and GC B cells in the stromal IM as compared with patients with low CD20 cluster scores. Notably, enriched abundance of Tfh cells (HR 0.20, p = 0.04), and diminished abundance of Treg cells (HR 0.10, p = 0.03), together with an overall short distance between Tfh and B cells (HR:0.08, p < 0.01), but not between Treg and B cells (HR 0.43, p = 0.28), were significantly associated with overall survival of patients with OSCC. Our study identified the prognostic value of clusters between CD20 B cells and Tfh cells in the stromal IM of OSCC patients, and enabled an improved understanding of the clinical value of a high CD20 cluster score, which requires validation in larger clinical cohorts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4298
Number of pages15
JournalCancers
Volume14
Issue number17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022

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Copyright: © 2022 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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