Ectopic (or tertiary) lymphoid tissue develops at sites of inflammation or infection in non lymphoid organs and is associated with chronic inflammation. In colon mucosa, small lymphoid aggregates are already present in homeostatic conditions, as part of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and play an essential role in the immune response to perturbations of the mucosal microenvironment. Despite the recognized role of inflammation in tumor progression, the presence and biological function of lymphoid tissue in cancer has been poorly investigated. We identified aggregates of lymphocytes resembling tertiary lymphoid tissue in human colorectal cancer specimens; intratumor accumulations of lymphocytes display a high degree of compartmentalization, with B and T cells, mature dendritic cells and a network of CD21 + follicular dendritic cells (FDC). We analyzed the adaptation of colon lymphoid tissue in a murine model of colitis-associated cancer (AOM/DSS). B cell follicle formation increases in the context of the chronic inflammation associated to intestinal neoplasia, in this model. A network of lymphatic and haematic vessels surrounding B cell follicles is present and includes high endothelial venules (HEV). Future task is to determine whether lymphoid tissue contributes to the persistence of the tumor-associated inflammatory reaction, rather than represent a functional immune compartment, potentially participating to the anti tumor response. © 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
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