FOXP3+ cell density in lymphoid follicles from histologically normal mucosa is a strong prognostic factor in early stage colon cancer

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2012 Aug;61(8):1183-90. doi: 10.1007/s00262-011-1191-3. Epub 2011 Dec 31.


There are few clearly established prognostic factors available to guide the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in early stage colon cancer patients. Some of the most promising candidates include the invasion of extramural blood vessels by tumour cells and the densities of FOXP3+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) in tumour and adjacent normal colonic mucosal tissue. The aim of our study was to evaluate the prognostic significance of these markers in AJCC stage II colon cancer, with particular reference to lymphoid follicles in the mucosa. Histopathological review for the presence of vascular and serosal invasion was conducted on a series of 165 stage II colon cancers treated by surgery alone. Immunohistochemical staining for FOXP3 was performed on tumour tissue and histologically normal colonic mucosa from the surgical margin. Image analysis software was used to evaluate the density of FOXP3+ cells in the tumour core, invading margin and lymphoid follicles from the colonic mucosa. For survival analysis, cases were classified into high- or low-density of FOXP3+ cells according to the median value. The mean density of FOXP3+ Tregs in lymphoid follicles was twofold and fivefold higher than in the invading margin and tumour core, respectively. Multivariate analysis identified extramural vascular invasion (HR, 2.47; 95% CI: 1.00-6.07; P = 0.05) and high FOXP3+ cell density in lymphoid follicles (HR, 4.22; 95% CI: 1.49-11.91; P = 0.007) as independent factors for worse survival, whereas a high frequency of lymphoid follicles in histologically normal colonic mucosa was associated with better survival (HR, 0.31; 95% CI: 0.12-0.79; P = 0.014). Our data suggest that host factors related to the immune system have major prognostic significance in early stage colon cancer. The density of FOXP3+ cells within lymphoid follicles and the frequency of these structures in normal colonic mucosa represent novel and independent prognostic factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colonic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors