Tumor Clearance and Immune Cell Recruitment in UV-Induced Murine Squamous Cell Carcinoma Exposed to Ablative Fractional Laser and Imiquimod Treatment

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Background and Objectives Keratinocyte carcinoma (KC) is the most common cancer worldwide, and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most frequent subtype. Ablative fractional laser (AFL)-assisted drug delivery significantly enhances the uptake of topically applied drugs. The objective of this study was to assess tumor response and perform a descriptive characterization of the local recruitment of immune cells and systemic immune mediator levels in an ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-induced murine SCC model after AFL treatment alone and combined with topical imiquimod.

Study Design/Materials and Methods Immunocompetent hairless mice (C3 center dot Cg/TifBomTac, n = 74) were irradiated with solar-simulated UVR until 3-mm SCCs developed. The mice were divided into four interventional groups: AFL alone, AFL + imiquimod, imiquimod alone, and untreated SCC controls. AFL was given as a single treatment, whereas imiquimod was applied daily until the mice were euthanized on Days 0, 2, 7, or 14. SCCs were photographed and measured (mm) to assess the therapeutic response. Skin samples were processed for histopathological and immunohistochemical analyses, as well as for flow cytometry. Cytokine expression changes in sera were analyzed using ELISpot cytokine arrays.

Results Treatment of mouse SCCs with AFL + imiquimod induced the most robust immune cell infiltration and the greatest proportion of tumor clearance compared to other interventions. Early innate immune cell infiltration was induced by AFL + imiquimod treatment as the number of neutrophils and macrophages had increased fourfold within 2 days of treatment initiation compared with untreated SCC control mice (P <0.05). AFL treatment alone had a more limited effect, with a fourfold increase in neutrophils (P <0.05) but no significant increase in the number of macrophages. Correspondingly, treatment with AFL + imiquimod had the greatest effects on the adaptive immune cell recruitment: CD4(+) T-helper cells increased threefold at Day 7 compared with untreated SCCs (P = 0.0001) and, notably, cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells increased 14-fold at Day 14 (P = 0.0112). In addition, FOXP3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) increased 14-fold at Day 7 (P = 0.0026), suggesting the resolution of the inflammatory infiltration. AFL treatment alone induced a moderate immune cell infiltration (a twofold increase in CD4(+) T-helper cells, P = 0.0200; a threefold increase in CD8(+) T cells, P = 0.0100; and a 14-fold increase in FOXP3(+) Tregs at Day 14, P = 0.0021), whereas imiquimod alone did not significantly increase cell counts. AFL + imiquimod treatment increased CXCL12 serum levels threefold at Day 14 (P = 0.0200).

Conclusion AFL treatment alone and in combination with imiquimod induces substantial tumor clearance associated with local recruitment of innate and adaptive immune cells in UVR-induced murine SCCs. These results may provide a basis for new immunotherapeutic approaches to KC treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Number of pages11
ISSN0196-8092
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2021

    Research areas

  • ablative fractional laser, imiquimod, immune cell recruitment, keratinocyte carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma

ID: 259991253