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Mod Pathol. 2011 Dec;24(12):1612-9. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2011.113. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Tumor-infiltrating neutrophils in pancreatic neoplasia.

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Department of Pathology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.


The interaction between tumor cells and inflammatory cells has an important role in cancer initiation and progression; however, this interaction has not been systematically investigated in pancreatic neoplasia. In this study, the presence of tumor-infiltrating neutrophils within and/or adjacent to neoplastic cells was investigated in pancreatic neoplasms. Areas with >10 tumor-infiltrating neutrophils/100 epithelial cells were arbitrarily classified as positive. Those with 11-15 tumor-infiltrating neutrophils were considered 'borderline' while those with >15 tumor-infiltrating neutrophils were considered 'significant'. Among 363 invasive ductal carcinomas, 15 showed significant tumor-infiltrating neutrophils (8 were micropapillary carcinomas and 7 were undifferentiated carcinomas). Of 19 mucinous cystic neoplasms with a carcinomatous high-grade papillary component, 11 showed significant tumor-infiltrating neutrophils (mean, 25; range, 14-63 tumor-infiltrating neutrophils). Among intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms, significant tumor-infiltrating neutrophils were identified in 4/16 pancreatobiliary type, but were uncommon in other types (1/11 oncocytic and 1/23 intestinal types had borderline tumor-infiltrating neutrophils, and 0/10 gastric type had tumor-infiltrating neutrophils). Non-carcinomatous (low-grade and non-papillary) components of these neoplasms did not have tumor-infiltrating neutrophils. Tumor-infiltrating neutrophils were not striking in neuroendocrine tumors (40), serous cystadenomas (18), acinar cell carcinomas (9) or solid-pseudopapillary neoplasms (8). In conclusion, significant tumor-infiltrating neutrophils are uncommon in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, and when they occur it is typically in the micropapillary and undifferentiated types with a known poor prognosis. Among pre-invasive neoplasia, tumor-infiltrating neutrophils show a predilection for papillary in-situ carcinomas of mucinous cystic neoplasms, or less commonly, pancreatobiliary-type intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (both of which express cell surface-associated mucin 1 (MUC1)). MUC1 expression by these tumors may have biologic implications, considering its recently established relationship with inflammatory cells in carcinogenesis, and the differential expression of mucins in pancreatic neoplasia. Larger studies are needed to investigate the association between tumor-infiltrating neutrophils and pancreatic neoplasms and their role in their clinical behavior.

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