Coordination of intratumoral immune reaction and human colorectal cancer recurrence

Cancer Res. 2009 Mar 15;69(6):2685-93. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2654. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


A role for the immune system in controlling the progression of solid tumors has been established in several mouse models. However, the effect of immune responses and tumor escape on patient prognosis in the context of human cancer is poorly understood. Here, we investigate the cellular and molecular parameters that could describe in situ immune responses in human colorectal cancer according to clinical parameters of metastatic lymph node or distant organ invasion (META- or META+ patients). Primary tumor samples of colorectal carcinoma were analyzed by integrating large-scale phenotypic (flow cytometry, 39 patients) and gene expression (real time reverse transcription-PCR, 103 patients) data sets related to immune and protumoral processes. In META- colorectal cancer primary tumors with high densities of T cells, we observed significant positive correlations between markers of innate immune cells [tumor-associated macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and NKT cells] and markers of early-activated T cells. Significant correlations were also observed between markers of cytotoxic and effector memory T-cell subpopulations. These correlation profiles were absent in tumors with low T-cell infiltrates and were altered in META+ tumors with high T-cell infiltrates. We show that the coexpression of genes mediating cytotoxicity (GNLY) and Th1 adaptive immune responses (IRF1) accurately predicted patient survival independently of the metastatic status. High intratumoral mRNA expression of the proangiogenic mediator vascular endothelial growth factor was associated with significantly reduced survival rates in patients expressing high mRNA levels of GNLY. Investigation of the colorectal cancer primary tumor microenvironment allowed us to uncover the association of favorable outcomes with efficient coordination of the intratumoral immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / immunology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / immunology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A