Neutrophils exhibit multiple functions during cancer progression and are believed to regulate adaptive immune responses to cancer. In addition to their interactions with T cells in this context, these cells are also believed to interact with B cells. Neutrophils have been found in the marginal zone of the spleen, where they exhibit helper cell characteristics, supporting B cell proliferation and activation. Here, we investigate the effect of neutrophils on B cells in the regional lymph nodes (RLN) of head-and-neck cancer (HNC) patients. We have identified that, in RLNs, neutrophils express a helper cell phenotype that was associated with the increased activation and proliferation of B cells. Importantly, the high abundance of neutrophils in the B cell follicles of regional lymph nodes is associated with significantly improved HNC patient survival.
The role of neutrophils during cancer formation and elimination is diverse. Here, for the first time, we investigate neutrophil helper cells (N BH), their influence on B cell activity in the regional lymph nodes (RLN) of head-and-neck cancer patients and the effect of this neutrophil/B cell interaction on patient prognosis. Circulating and RLN neutrophils of patients with stage I–IV head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma were investigated with flow cytometry and qPCR. In addition, neutrophil/B cell co-localization in RLNs was evaluated using immunohistochemistry. B cell proliferation was assessed and correlated with the distance to neutrophils. Patient survival was evaluated. Neutrophils with the helper cell phenotype were identified in the RLN of HNC patients. B cells in close proximity to such N BH showed significantly higher proliferation rates, together with elevated activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) expression. Notably, patient survival was significantly higher in individuals with high N BH frequencies in the B follicles of RLNs. Neutrophils in RLN can support T cell-independent activation of the adaptive immune system through B cell stimulation, capturing helper cell phenotype character. The presence of such helper neutrophils in the RLNs of HNC patients positively correlates with patient prognosis.