Cytotoxic T cell depletion with increasing epithelial abnormality in women with benign breast disease.

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Breast cancer research and treatment


PURPOSE: We quantified cytotoxic T cells in nonmalignant breast tissues from women with and without subsequent breast cancer to assess evidence of whether immunosurveillance may be suppressed prior to tumor development.

METHODS: We used an age-matched set of breast tissues from women with benign breast disease (BBD) who subsequently developed breast cancer (BBD with later BC), women with BBD who remained cancer free (BBD cancer-free), and normal Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) tissue donors (KTB controls). We evaluated terminal duct lobular units (lobules) for degree of epithelial abnormality and density of dual-positive CD8/CD103 T cells, as CD103+ cells are thought to be a subset of CD8+ cytotoxic T cells located primarily in the intraepithelial compartment.

RESULTS: In 10 sets of age-matched women, 256 breast lobules were studied: 85 in BBD women with later BC, 85 in BBD cancer-free women, and 86 in KTB donors. The majority of all lobules were histologically normal (N = 143, 56%), with 65 (25%) nonproliferative fibrocystic change, and 48 (19%) proliferative epithelial change (with or without atypia). In BBD women with later BC, median CD8+/CD103+ cell density was 39.6, 31.7, and 10.5 cells/mm

CONCLUSION: In women with BBD, breast lobules with increasing epithelial abnormality show significant decreases in cytotoxic T cells as measured by CD8/CD103 staining, suggesting that impaired immunosurveillance may be a component of the earliest stages of breast cancer development.

Clinical Institute


Clinical Institute

Women & Children