Low Pretreatment CD4+:CD8+ T Cell Ratios and CD39+CD73+CD19+ B Cell Proportions Are Associated with Improved Relapse-Free Survival in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Publication Name

International Journal of Molecular Sciences


The ectonucleotidases CD39 and CD73 are present on immune cells and play important roles in cancer progression by suppressing antitumour immunity. As such, CD39 and CD73 on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are emerging as potential biomarkers to predict disease outcomes and treatment responses in cancer patients. This study aimed to examine T and B cells, including CD39 and CD73 expressing subsets, by flow cytometry in PBMCs from 28 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and to assess the correlation with the treatment modality, human papillomavirus (HPV) status, and relapse-free survival (RFS). The PBMCs were examined pre-, mid-, and post-radiotherapy with concurrent cisplatin chemotherapy or anti-epidermal growth factor receptor antibody (cetuximab) therapy. Combination radiotherapy caused changes to T and B cell populations, including CD39 and CD73 expressing subsets, but no such differences were observed between concurrent chemotherapy and cetuximab. Pretreatment PBMCs from HPV+ patients contained increased proportions of CD39−CD73−CD4+ T cells and reduced proportions of CD39−/+CD73+CD4+ T cells compared to the equivalent cells from HPV− patients. Notably, the pretreatment CD4+:CD8+ T cell ratios and CD39+CD73+CD19+ B cell proportions below the respective cohort medians corresponded with an improved RFS. Collectively, this study supports the notion that CD39 and CD73 may contribute to disease outcomes in HNSCC patients and may assist as biomarkers, either alone or as part of immune signatures, in HNSCC. Further studies of CD39 and CD73 on PBMCs from larger cohorts of HNSCC patients are warranted.

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Funding Sponsor

Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute



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