Is the presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes predictive of outcomes in patients with melanoma?

for the Sentinel Lymph Node Working Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The significance of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in melanoma is debated. This article presents a multicenter, retrospective study assessing the predictive and prognostic value of TILs. Methods: The Sentinel Lymph Node Working Group database was queried from 1993 to 2018 for cases with known TIL data. TILs were categorized as absent or present, which included nonbrisk (NB), brisk (B), and present but unspecified TIL levels. Clinicopathologic factors were correlated with TILs, sentinel lymph node (SLN) status, and melanoma-specific survival (MSS). Results: Overall, 3203 patients were included. The median thickness was 1.5 mm, and 469 cases had SLN metastases. TILs were present in 2458 cases (76.7%), with NB, B, and unspecified TILs seen in 1691 (68.8%), 691 (28.1%), and 76 (3.1%), respectively. Multivariable analysis showed that the presence of TILs significantly predicted a negative SLN biopsy (P <.05). The median follow-up was 25.2 months. MSS was significantly better for cases with TILs than cases without TILs (P <.001). According to multivariable analysis, age, gender, thickness, mitotic rate, ulceration, lymphovascular invasion, and SLN status were significantly prognostic of MSS (all P values <.05). Although TILs were not prognostic of MSS, when multiple imputation was used and the SLN status was excluded, the presence of TILs was significantly prognostic of improved MSS (hazard ratio, 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.95; P =.0154). Conclusions: TILs are a favorable marker because their presence significantly predicts a negative SLN, and the absence of TILs may be a prognostic marker of worse survival in patients with a positive SLN but not a negative SLN. TILs may also serve as a prognostic marker of survival when the SLN status is not considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1418-1428
Number of pages11
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • melanoma
  • nodal metastasis
  • sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • staging
  • survival
  • tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Is the presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes predictive of outcomes in patients with melanoma?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this