Immune and epithelial cells express TLR3, a receptor deputed to respond to microbial signals activating the immune response. The prognostic value of TLR3 in cancer is debated and no data are currently available in NSCLC, for which therapeutic approaches that target the immune system are providing encouraging results. Dissecting the lung immune microenvironment could provide new prognostic markers, especially for early stage NSCLC for which surgery is the only treatment option. In this study we investigated the expression and the prognostic value of TLR3 on both tumor and immune compartments of stage I NSCLCs. In a cohort of 194 NSCLC stage I, TLR3 immunohistochemistry expression on tumor cells predicted a favorable outcome of early stage NSCLC, whereas on the immune cells infiltrating the tumor stroma, TLR3 expression associated with a poor overall survival. Patients with TLR3-positive immune infiltrating cells, but not tumor cells showed a worse prognosis compared with all other patients. The majority of TLR3-expressing immune cells resulted to be macrophages and TLR3 expression associates with PD-1 expression. TLR3 has an opposite prognostic significance when expressed on tumor or immune cells in early stage NCSCL. Analysis of TLR3 in tumor and immune cells can help in identifying high risk stage I patients for which adjuvant treatment would be beneficial.
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