Introduction: There is evidence to suggest that the number, type and location of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes may be a strong prognostic indicator in colon cancer. The purpose of this preliminary investigation was to apply digital imaging and objective assessment techniques to characterize infiltrating immune cells in oral, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (OHNSCC) and to coordinate these data with a flow cytometric analysis of the cells isolated from the tumor.
Methods: Samples of tumor specimen from 45 subjects with OHNSCC were obtained and are being analyzed for CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20 and FoxP3 using flow cytometry. In parallel, formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tissue from the same specimens are being stained for the specified markers, scanned and digital images are being assessed using the Definiens software platform.
Results: Preliminary results have documented consistent staining and potential of the IHC and florescence active cell sorting-based systems to identify infiltrating cells. Definiens software provides a consistent method to assess numbers of IHC stained cells in sections of tumor specimens.
Conclusion: Assessment of the tumor microenvironment may provide insights into the type, number, function or relative location of immune cells present in the tumor and holds promise as a biomarker in OHNSCC.