Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes are Prognostic Factors and Can Be Markers of Sensitivity to Chemoradiotherapy in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head-and-Neck Surgery, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Akita, 010-8543 Japan.

2 Department of Molecular and Tumour Pathology, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Akita, 010-8543 Japan.


Background: Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are assessed by the ratio of the area of lymphocytes infiltrating the stroma. TILs are important in breast cancer and malignant melanoma and are being established as a marker of prognosis and sensitivity to chemotherapy. This has resulted in various therapies being developed in fields such as breast cancer. However, the evaluation of TILs in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is not progressing, and the prognosis is still poor. Thus, investigating whether or not the evaluation of TILs is also effective in HNSCC and prognoses can be predicted with just biopsy samples alone is required. Methods: This study included 153 patients who were diagnosed with HNSCC between January 2010 and December 2019, underwent treatment, and could be followed up thereafter at our institution. Results: TILs, overall survival (OS), and progression-free survival (PFS) were evaluated in all patients, the chemoradiotherapy arm, and the surgery arm. The cut-off value for TILs was 50%. In all patients, OS was 69.8% and 40.2% (P = 0.01) and PFS was 58.4% and 31.6% (P = 0.003) in the high and low TIL groups, respectively. Multivariate analyses revealed that TILs independently predicted prognosis. In the chemoradiotherapy arm, OS was 70.8% and 31.6% (P = 0.012) and PFS was 63.4% and 20.3% (P = 0.001) in the high and low TIL groups, respectively. No significant differences were noted in the surgery arm. Conclusions: In HNSCC, TILs can be used as a prognosis predictor and chemoradiotherapy biomarker. Assessments can be performed just with hematoxylin–eosin staining and is very simple. This will greatly contribute to report personalized therapy progress. Further evaluations and, thus, prospective clinical multicenter trials are needed to use TILs in clinical practice for HNSCC.


Main Subjects

Volume 23, Issue 4
April 2022
Pages 1271-1278
  • Receive Date: 17 October 2021
  • Revise Date: 21 February 2022
  • Accept Date: 11 April 2022
  • First Publish Date: 11 April 2022