Background: Ectopic lymphoid formations are called tertiary lymphoid structures (TLSs). TLSs in cancer have been reported to be associated with good prognosis and immunotherapy response. However, the relationship between TLSs and lymph node (LN) metastasis is unclear. Methods: We analyzed 218 patients with radically resected lung adenocarcinoma. TLSs were defined as the overlap of T cell zone and B cell zone. Granzyme B + cells were defined as cytotoxic lymphocytes. We evaluated phenotypes of lymphocytes in TLSs, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and LNs by immunohistochemistry. We divided the patients into mature TLS (DC-Lamp high) and immature TLS (DC-Lamp low) groups. The relationship between TLS maturation and clinicopathological factors was analyzed. Results: The mature TLS group was associated with significantly lower frequency of LN metastasis (P < 0.0001) and early cancer stage (P = 0.0049). The mature TLS group had significantly more CD8 + (P = 0.0203) and Foxp3 + (P = 0.0141) cells in TILs than the immature TLS group had. Mature TLSs were independently associated with a favorable overall survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.17, P = 0.0220) and disease-free survival (HR = 0.54, P = 0.0436). Multivariate analysis showed that mature TLS was an independent low-risk factor for LN metastasis (odds ratio = 0.06, P = 0.0003). The number of cytotoxic lymphocytes in LNs was higher in the mature TLS group than in the immature group (20.0 vs. 15.1, P = 0.017). Conclusion: Mature TLSs were associated with an increased number of cytotoxic lymphocytes in draining LNs, a lower frequency of LN metastasis, and favorable outcomes. Mature TLSs may support antitumor immunity by lymphocyte activation.
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