The immune suppression of sentinel lymph node (SN) is directly influenced by primary tumors. It has been reported that the T-helper type 1 (Th1) to T-helper type 2 (Th2) ratio or T-cytotoxic type 1 (Tc1) to T-cytotoxic type 2 (Tc2) ratio of lymph node lymphocytes could be used to evaluate direct immunological circumstances. We attempted to evaluate the Th1 to Th2 cell and Tc1 to Tc2 cell balance in SN and non-SN and to clarify the immunological status of sentinel nodes in breast cancer. To evaluate this balance, SN and non-SN were identified by radioguided methods and lymph node lymphocytes were collected, and prepared for flow cytometry. The Th1 to Th2 and Tc1 to Tc2 ratio were calculated by 3-color flow cytometry. The ratio of SN and non-SN was compared. The results demonstrated that SN was detected in 24 out of 24 patients (100%). As regards the correlation between SN and non-SN in the same patients, the Th1 to Th2 ratio in SN was significantly lower than that in non-SN for all patients (p<0.05). Among clinicopathological factors, a larger tumor diameter, histology and nodal involvement affected the decreased Th1 to Th2 ratio in SN significantly (p<0.05). We reached the conclusion that the increasing immunosuppressive conditions derived from the tumor may deteriorate the Th1 to Th2 ratio of SN in an earlier stage as compared with non-SN. According to the tumor extension and nodal involvement, the Th1 to Th2 ratio in SN was significantly suppressed. The current result supports that mainly helper T-cell paralysis occurred first in SN and this seems to be a favorable condition in forming lymph node metastases in SN. Moreover, the immunologic interaction between the primary site and regional lymph nodes may serve as useful criteria for identifying sentinel nodes.
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