ARTICLE ABSTRACTAdenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix is the second most common type of cervical cancer after squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Although both subtypes are treated similarly, patients with adenocarcinoma have a worse prognosis. In this study, immunologic features of the tumor microenvironment in these two subsets were pursued with potential therapeutic implications.
The immune microenvironment of primary tumors and nonmetastatic tumor-draining lymph nodes (TDLN) was compared between patients with cervical adenocarcinoma (n = 16) and SCC (n = 20) by polychromatic flow cytometry and by transcriptional profiling of the primary tumors (n = 299) using publicly available data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).
Flow cytometric analyses revealed intact T-cell differentiation in TDLNs, but hampered effector T-cell trafficking to the primary tumors in adenocarcinoma, as compared with SCC. TCGA analysis demonstrated higher expression of chemokines involved in effector T-cell homing (CXCL9/10/11) in SCC primary tumors as compared with adenocarcinoma primary tumors, which was highly correlated to a transcriptional signature for type I conventional dendritic cells (cDC1). This was consistent with elevated frequencies of CD141/BDCA3+cDC1 in primary tumor SCC samples relative to adenocarcinoma and correspondingly elevated levels of CXCL9 and CXCL10 in 24-hour ex vivo cultures. Hampered cDC1 recruitment in adenocarcinoma was in turn related to lower transcript levels of cDC1-recruiting chemokines and an elevated β-catenin activation score and was associated with poor overall survival.
Our data have identified an opportunity for the investigation of potentially novel therapeutic interventions in adenocarcinoma of the cervix, that is, β-catenin inhibition and cDC1 mobilization.