Background: Carbonic anhydrase 9 (CA9) is a marker for hypoxia and acidosis, which is linked to a poor prognosis in human tumors. The purpose of this comparative analysis was to evaluate whether CA9 and VEGF expression are associated with survival outcomes in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) after treatment with bevacizumab as second or later line treatment.
Methods: Thirty-one mCRC patients who were treated with bevacizumab-containing chemotherapy as second or later line treatment and who had analyzable tumor paraffin blocks were selected for this study. The planned dose of bevacizumab was 5 mg/kg/2-week. Immunohistochemical (IHC) staining of CA9 and VEGF was performed and their expression was scored by the intensity multiplied by percentage of stained area.
Results: The overall response rate was 19.4% and the disease control rate (DCR) was 61.3% with 6 partial responses and 13 cases of stable disease. The DCR was significantly higher in patients with a lower CA9 expression score compared to those with a higher score (80.0% vs. 27.3%, respectively, P = 0.004). The patients with a low CA9 expression score also showed better outcomes with regard to the median progression-free survival (P = 0.028) and overall survival (P = 0.026). However, VEGF expression was not associated with the DCR and survival.
Conclusion: Lower degree of CA9 expression was associated with better clinical outcomes in patients with mCRC treated with lower dose bevacizumab-based chemotherapy. Prospective studies are now needed to determine the correlation between CA9 expression and clinical outcomes after bevacizumab treatment, at different doses and in varied settings.