Research Perspectives:

The role of immune surveillance in malignant transformation of benign salivary gland tumors

Maximilian Linxweiler, Jingming Wang and Luc G.T. Morris _

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Oncotarget. 2021; 12:592-595. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27900

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Maximilian Linxweiler1, Jingming Wang2,3 and Luc G.T. Morris2,3

1 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Saarland University Medical Center, Homburg/Saar, Germany

2 Immunogenomics and Precision Oncology Platform, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA

3 Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA

Correspondence to:

Luc G.T. Morris,email: [email protected]

Keywords: salivary tumor; salivary cancer; pleomorphic adenoma; immune surveillance

Received: January 31, 2021     Accepted: February 03, 2021     Published: March 30, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Linxweiler et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Pleomorphic adenoma (PA), the most common salivary gland tumor, is a benign tumor that carries a risk of malignant transformation to various histologies of carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma (CA exPA). Recently, genomic analyses have provided deeper insights into the molecular biology of salivary gland cancers. However, the molecular processes that underlie the progression from PA to CA exPA are largely unknown. In this study, we used RNAseq data from CA ex PA of myoepithelial (n = 24) or salivary duct histology (n = 6), de novo myoepithelial carcinoma (n = 16) and de novo salivary duct carcinoma (n = 10), and compared their constituent immune tumor microenvironments. We found that increasing levels of immune infiltration and activation were associated with a generally lower probability of cancer developing ex-PA, suggesting that immune surveillance may constrain the malignant transformation of benign salivary tumors. More immunologically infiltrated tumors were more likely to have developed de novo. Taken together, these data suggest a role for tumor escape from immune surveillance in the development of CA exPA. The immune-cold microenvironments of CA ex PA tumors may in part explain their more aggressive clinical behavior.

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