Localization and density of immune cells in the invasive margin of human colorectal cancer liver metastases are prognostic for response to chemotherapy

Cancer Res. 2011 Sep 1;71(17):5670-7. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-0268. Epub 2011 Aug 16.


Analysis of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in primary human colorectal cancer (CRC) by in situ immunohistochemical staining supports the hypothesis that the adaptive immune response influences the course of human CRC. Specifically, high densities of TILs in the primary tumor are associated with good prognosis independent of other prognostic markers. However, the prognostic role of TILs in metastatic CRC lesions is unknown, as is their role in response or resistance to conventional chemotherapy. We analyzed the association of TIL densities at the invasive margin of CRC liver metastases with response to chemotherapy and progression-free survival in a set of 101 large section samples. High-resolution automated microscopy on complete tissue sections was used to objectively generate cell densities for CD3, CD8, granzyme B, or FOXP3 positive immune cells. A predictive scoring system using TIL densities was developed in a training set and tested successfully in an independent validation set. TIL densities at the invasive margin of liver metastases allowed the prediction of response to chemotherapy with a sensitivity of 79% and specificity of 100%. The association of high density values with longer progression-free survival under chemotherapy was statistically significant. Overall, these findings extend the impact of the local immune response on the clinical course from the primary tumor also to metastatic lesions. Because detailed quantification of TILs in metastatic lesions revealed a strong association with chemotherapy efficacy and prognosis, we suggest that the developed scoring system may be used as a predictive tool for response to chemotherapy in metastatic CRC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Count
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Prognosis