The abundance of tumour-infiltrating T-cells has been associated with microsatellite instability (MSI) and a favourable prognosis in colorectal cancer. However, numerous molecular alterations have been associated with clinical outcome, and potentially confounding the biological and prognostic significance of tumour-infiltrating T-cells. We utilized a database of clinically and molecularly-annotated colon and rectal carcinoma cases (N = 768; stage I-IV) in two prospective cohort studies (the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study) and quantified the densities of CD3(+), CD8(+), CD45RO(+) (PTPRC), and FOXP3(+) cells within neoplastic epithelial areas using an Ariol image analysis system and tissue microarray. We used Cox proportional hazard models to compute the mortality hazard ratio, adjusting for clinical and molecular features including KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA mutations, MSI, CIMP, and LINE-1 hypomethylation. The densities of CD8(+), CD45RO(+), and FOXP3(+) cells were significantly associated with patient survival in univariate analyses (P(trend) < 0.007). In the multivariate model, tumour-infiltrating CD45RO(+)-cell density, but not CD3(+), CD8(+) or FOXP3(+)-cell density, was significantly associated with survival (p = 0.0032). In multivariate linear regression analysis, MSI-high (p < 0.0001) and high-level tumour LINE-1 methylation (p = 0.0013) were independently associated with higher CD45RO(+)-cell density. The survival benefit associated with CD45RO(+) cells was independent of MSI and LINE-1 status. In conclusion, tumour-infiltrating CD45RO(+)-cell density is a prognostic biomarker associated with longer survival of colorectal cancer patients, independent of clinical, pathological, and molecular features. In addition, MSI-high and tumour LINE-1 methylation level are independent predictors of CD45RO(+)-cell density. Our data offer a possible mechanism by which MSI confers an improved clinical outcome and support efforts to augment the host immune response in the tumour microenvironment as a strategy of targeted immunotherapy.
Copyright © 2010 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.