Lu Liu, Meiling Long, Shengyuan Su, Lijun Wang, Jintao Liu

Clinical impact of heterogeneously distributed tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes on the prognosis of colorectal cancer

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Background Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) exist in various malignancies, and have been viewed as a promising biomarker to predict the efficacy and outcome of treatment. However, the marked inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity of TILs has resulted in some confusion regarding their impact on the prognosis of colorectal cancer (CRC). Methods In this study, 78 CRC patients were enrolled and the CD3+ and CD8+ TILs densities at the tumor center (TC), the invasive margin (IM) and the tumor stroma (TS) were assessed by immunohistochemical staining. Their associations with clinicopathological features and progression free survival (PFS) were analyzed to evaluate the predictive and prognostic values of TILs. Results TILs were mainly distributed along the invasive margin. High density of TILs in tumor center and invasive margin was associated with smaller tumor size (CD3+TILsIM), reduced tumor invasion (CD3+TILsIM), absence of lymph node metastasis (CD3+TILsIM and CD8+TILsTC), earlier stage (CD3+TILsIM and CD8+TILsIM), and lower tumor grade (CD3+TILsIM and CD8+TILsTC). However, stromal TILs were not associated with any clinicopathological features. Kaplan–Meier survival analysis revealed that high densities of TILs always correlated with prolonged patient survival. The pathological N stage, CD3+ TILsIM and CD8+ TILsTC were found to be independent prognostic indicators. Additionally, early-stage CRC patients who developed recurrence after surgery, showed a higher CD3+/CD8+ TILs ratio in invasive margin. In the present study, it was clarified that CD3+ and CD8+ TILs were heterogeneously distributed in tumor tissues of CRC. The increase in intratumoral and peritumoral TILs had been shown to be strongly predictive of improved clinical outcome. More importantly, the immune signatures enabled to stratify early-stage CRC patients with high risk of recurrence, highlighting the prognostic power of TILs.

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