Introduction: There is now accumulating evidence to suggest that intratumoral adaptive immune responses predict patient prognosis. The presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes has been correlated with patients' disease-free and overall survival. Recent exciting studies of human colorectal cancers (CRCs) have underlined the significance of including immunological biomarkers as prognostic markers.
Areas covered: This review covers recent literature which suggests that the type, density and location of immune cells within the colorectal tumors represent a better predictor of patient survival than the histopathological methods currently used to stage CRC.
Expert opinion: Remarkably, the quantity, quality and spatial distribution of immune cells within the tumor has a greater prognostic value than the standard tumor staging based on tumor burden, infiltration of draining and regional lymph nodes by tumor cells, and evidence of metastases. In addition, such an immune classification may also have a predictive value. Thus, by increasing the knowledge of the immune events inside the tumors and by better understanding the immune architecture of these tumors as well as the functional programs of their constituents, there will certainly be a more complete idea of how tumors evade from immunosurveillance. This knowledge will help to identify new targets for the development of therapeutic strategies.