Background: The tumour-host interaction at the invasive front of colorectal cancer, including the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and its hallmark 'tumour budding', is an important area of investigation in terms of prognosis. The aim of this study was to determine the prognostic impact of a 'pro-/anti-tumour' approach defined by an established 'pro-tumour' (tumour budding) and host-related 'anti-tumour' factor of the adaptive immunological microenvironment (CD8+ lymphocytes).
Methods: Double immunostaining for CK22/CD8 on whole tissue sections (n=279; Cohort 1) and immunohistochemistry for CD8+ using tissue microarrays (n=191; Cohort 2) was carried out. Tumour buds, CD8+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes : tumour buds indices were evaluated per high-power field.
Results: In Cohort 1, a low-CD8+/ buds index was associated with lymph node metastasis (P<0.001), vascular invasion (P=0.009), worse survival in univariate (P<0.001) and multivariable (P<0.001) analysis, and furthermore in lymph node-negative patients (P=0.002). In Cohort 2, the CD8+/ buds index was associated with T stage (P<0.001), N stage (P=0.041), vascular invasion (P=0.005) and survival in patients with TNM stage II (P=0.019), stage III (P=0.004), and adjuvantly untreated (P=0.009) and treated patients (P<0.001).
Conclusion: The CD8+ lymphocyte : tumour-budding index is an independent prognostic factor in colorectal cancer and a promising approach for a future prognostic score for patients with this disease.