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Immunol Invest. 1999 Jan;28(1):29-41.

Phenotyping of immune cell infiltrates in breast and colorectal tumours.

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Department of Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.


White cell infiltration of solid tumors is an important prognostic indicator in malignant disease. Although macrophage infiltration is associated with good outcome in colorectal cancer, a high macrophage content is associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer. Suppressor macrophages prevent T cell activation in normal tissues such as mucosal linings exposed to continuous antigenic challenge. Interleukin 10 (IL-10), an immunosuppressive cytokine, inhibits macrophage co-stimulation of T cells. Suppressor macrophage numbers, T cell numbers and T cell activation status were assessed in cell suspensions obtained from fresh specimens of breast and colorectal tumours and matched normal tissues. IL-10 production by both malignant and matched normal tissue was also assessed. This study identified elevated numbers of suppressor macrophages in breast tumors compared to matched normal breast tissue. Colorectal tumors did not contain significant numbers of these cells. Although T cell numbers are increased in breast tumors, these cells do not appear to be fully activated, as assessed by major histocompatibility complex class II and Interleukin 2 receptor expression. In contrast, T cells in colorectal tumors exhibit greater expression levels of these markers. Breast tumors produce significantly higher levels of IL-10 than normal breast tissue whereas IL-10 levels in colorectal tumors are similar to normal colon tissue. Our findings of high suppressor macrophage numbers, high levels of IL-10 and poorly activated T cells in breast tumors compared to low suppressor macrophage numbers, low IL-10 and fully activated T cells in colorectal tumors may explain why high macrophage content is associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer and good prognosis in colorectal malignancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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