Oops, you're using an old version of your browser so some of the features on this page may not be displaying properly.

MINIMAL Requirements: Google Chrome 24+Mozilla Firefox 20+Internet Explorer 11Opera 15–18Apple Safari 7SeaMonkey 2.15-2.23

Poster Display session 3

5501 - Tobacco smoking is associated with the immune suppressive microenvironment in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)


30 Sep 2019


Poster Display session 3


Translational Research

Tumour Site


Christine Chung


Annals of Oncology (2019) 30 (suppl_5): v760-v796. 10.1093/annonc/mdz268


C.H. Chung1, J.V. de la Iglesia1, X. Wang2, F. Song1, R. Chaudhary1, J. Masannat1, J. Conejo-Garcia3, J. Hernandez-Prera4, R. Slebos5

Author affiliations

  • 1 Department Of Head And Neck-endocrine Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center University of South Florida, 33612 - Tampa/US
  • 2 Department Of Biostatistics And Bioinformatics, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center University of South Florida, 33612 - Tampa/US
  • 3 Department Of Immunology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center University of South Florida, 33612 - Tampa/US
  • 4 Department Of Pathology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center University of South Florida, 33612 - Tampa/US
  • 5 Department Of Head And Neck-endocrine Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa/US


Login to access the resources on OncologyPRO.

If you do not have an ESMO account, please create one for free.

Abstract 5501


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients with a significant tobacco smoking history have a poor prognosis compared to never smokers. We hypothesize the poor prognosis in tobacco smokers with HNSCC is, at least in part, due to ongoing suppression of immune response and that understanding of deregulated signals in each step may provide insights to improve clinical outcomes of HNSCC patients.


We characterized the tumor immune microenvironment (TIM) of HNSCC in a retrospective cohort of 177 current, former, and never smokers. Tumors were subjected to analysis of CD3, CD8, FOXP3, PD-1, PD-L1, and pan-cytokeratin by multiplex immunofluorescence, whole exome sequencing, and RNA sequencing. The immune markers were measured in the tumor core (TC), tumor margin (TM), and stroma (S).


Our data indicate that current smokers have significantly lower numbers of CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells and PD-L1+ cells compared to never- and former-smokers. While tumor mutation burden and mutant-allele tumor heterogeneity score do not associate with smoking status, gene-set enrichment analyses reveal significant suppression of IFN-α and IFN-γ response pathways in current smokers. Gene expression of canonical IFN-response chemokines of the CXCL9, CXCL10, CXCL11/CXCR3 axis are lower in current smokers than in former smokers suggesting decreased immune cell migration to the tumor site.


These results indicate that active tobacco use in HNSCC has an immunosuppressive effect through inhibition of tumor infiltration of cytotoxic T-cells likely as a result of suppression of IFN response pathways. Our study highlights the importance of understanding the interaction between smoking and TIM in light of emerging immune modulators for cancer management and the importance of smoking cessation during treatment with immunotherapy.

Clinical trial identification

Editorial acknowledgement

Legal entity responsible for the study

The authors.


The James and Esther King Biomedical Research Grant.


C.H. Chung: Honoraria (self): bristol myers squibb; Honoraria (self): astrazeneca; Honoraria (self): Lilly; Honoraria (self): CUE Biopharma. J. Conejo-Garcia: Honoraria (self): Compass Therapeutics; Honoraria (self): Anixa Biosciences. R. Slebos: Spouse / Financial dependant: Bristol Myers Squibb; Spouse / Financial dependant: AstraZeneca ; Spouse / Financial dependant: CUE Biopharma; Spouse / Financial dependant: Lilly Oncology. All other authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

This site uses cookies. Some of these cookies are essential, while others help us improve your experience by providing insights into how the site is being used.

For more detailed information on the cookies we use, please check our Privacy Policy.

Customise settings
  • Necessary cookies enable core functionality. The website cannot function properly without these cookies, and you can only disable them by changing your browser preferences.