In situ analysis of FOXP3+ regulatory T cells in human colorectal cancer

J Transl Med. 2006 Dec 13;4:52. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-4-52.

Abstract

The immune system spontaneously responds to tumor-associated antigens in peripheral blood of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Regulatory T cells (Treg) are suspected of influencing the interaction between the tumor and immune system and thus the course of malignant diseases. However, the function of Tregs in the development of T cell responses and on the clinical course of CRC is not clear. We analyzed Treg infiltration (FOXP3 staining) in situ in 40 CRC patients and investigated whether there is a correlation to disease stage, systemic T cell response, and survival. Treg infiltration was significantly higher in CRC than in healthy colon. Stromal Treg infiltration was significantly higher than epithelial infiltration in CRC. Furthermore, Treg infiltration in the tumor was significantly higher in limited disease than in metastatic CRC. The average Treg infiltration rate in the tumor was non-significantly higher in patients without systemic TAA-specific T cell response. Survival did not differ between patients with high Treg infiltration and those with low Treg infiltration. In conclusion, a direct link between Treg infiltration in the tumor and the development of a systemic T cell response in CRC cannot be proven. However, local Treg infiltration was significantly higher in limited disease, in which a systemic TAA-directed T cell responses is less frequently observed.