Virchows Archiv

, 459:391 | Cite as

Metastasis to sentinel lymph nodes in breast cancer is associated with maturation arrest of dendritic cells and poor co-localization of dendritic cells and CD8+ T cells

  • Aaron Scott Mansfield
  • Paivi Heikkila
  • Karl von Smitten
  • Jukka Vakkila
  • Marjut Leidenius
Original Article


The regional immune systems of patients with breast cancer are immunosuppressed. Dendritic cells are professional antigen-presenting cells and present cancer-associated antigens to the adaptive immune system in sentinel lymph nodes. Dendritic cells may promote, or inhibit, an adaptive immune response to specific antigens. Our aim was to assess whether dendritic cells were associated with nodal metastasis in patients with breast cancer. Sentinel lymph nodes of 47 patients with breast cancer with varying degrees of nodal disease and ten controls were evaluated using immunohistochemistry for the accumulation of dendritic cells in general (CD1a+), mature dendritic cells (CD208+), and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (CD123+). Cytotoxic T cell and regulatory T cell accumulation were also evaluated. Sentinel lymph nodes with macrometastases demonstrated fewer mature dendritic cells than sentinel lymph nodes without metastasis (p = 0.028), but not controls. There were fewer mature dendritic cells to cytotoxic T cells in sentinel lymph nodes with metastasis than those without (p = 0.033). Also, there were more regulatory T cells to mature dendritic cells in sentinel lymph nodes with metastasis than those without (p = 0.02). In conclusion, our study suggests that sentinel lymph nodes with metastasis have arrest of maturation of dendritic cells, fewer mature dendritic cell interactions with cytotoxic T cells, and more regulatory T cells than sentinel lymph nodes without metastasis in patients with breast cancer. These findings extend our understanding of regional immunosuppression and suggest that most regional immunosuppressive changes are associated with nodal metastasis in breast cancer.


Breast cancer Lymph nodes Dendritic cells Regulatory T cells Immunosuppression Metastasis 



The authors would like to thank Eija Heiliö for her assistance with immunohistochemistry. The Helsinki University Central Hospital Research Fund provided funding for this work.

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Scott Mansfield
    • 1
    • 4
  • Paivi Heikkila
    • 2
  • Karl von Smitten
    • 1
  • Jukka Vakkila
    • 3
  • Marjut Leidenius
    • 1
  1. 1.Breast Surgery UnitHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of PathologyHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Hematology Research UnitHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Division of Hematology, Department of OncologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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