Neutrophil-tumor cell cannibalism in oral squamous cell carcinoma

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Cannibalism was recognized as a phenomenon seen mainly with the tumor cells ingesting other tumor cells. Recent reports have shown tumor cell engulfing other cells (xeno-cannibalism) as well, such as neutrophils, lymphocytes and erythrocytes. But no such finding has been reported in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) in the literature till date.


Retrospective histopathological analysis of OSCC for identification of neutrophil-tumor cell cannibalism (NTCC) and its correlation with clinico-pathological parameters.


The hematoxylin and eosin stained tissue sections of 500 OSCC cases were thoroughly screened at high power magnification (400X) for NTCC. Cases showing only frank NTCC were selected. Cases were subjected to immunohistochemical analysis using CD68 and lysozyme.


Seven (1.4%) cases of OSCC which showed classical features of extreme NTCC on histopathological examination. Seventeen Cases (3.4%) showing occasional isolated NTCC were excluded. All the cases were poorly differentiated and showed cervical lymph node metastasis. Immunohistochemical analysis showed mild (+) to moderate (++) positivity in tumor cells for CD68 and lysozyme markers.


NTCC in OSCC can predict the biological behavior and could serve as a useful prognostic marker in future. Tumor cell displaying macrophage phenotype and cell digestion could be mediated through lysosomal enzyme activity.

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