Background: This study evaluates the geographic expression pattern of Raf-1 Kinase Inhibitor Protein (RKIP) in colorectal cancer (CRC) in correlation with clinicopathological and molecular features, markers of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and survival outcome.
Methods: Whole-tissue sections of 220 well-characterised CRCs were immunostained for RKIP. NF-κB and E-Cadherin expression was assessed using a matched multi-punch tissue microarray. Analysis of mismatch repair (MMR) protein expression, B-Raf and KRAS mutations was performed. RKIP expression in normal mucosa, tumour centre, invasion front and tumour buds was each assessed for clinical relevance.
Results: RKIP was diffusely expressed in normal mucosa and progressively lost towards tumour centre and front (P<0.0001). Only 0.9% of tumour buds were RKIP-positive. In the tumour centre, RKIP deficiency predicted metastatic disease (P=0.0307), vascular invasion (P=0.0506), tumour budding (P=0.0112) and an invasive border configuration (P=0.0084). Loss of RKIP correlated with NF-κB activation (P=0.0002) and loss of E-Cadherin (P<0.0001). Absence of RKIP was more common in MMR-deficient cancers (P=0.0191), while no impact of KRAS and B-Raf mutation was observed. RKIP in the tumour centre was identified as a strong prognostic indicator (HR (95% CI): 2.13 (1.27-3.56); P=0.0042) independently of TNM classification and therapy (P=0.0474).
Conclusion: The clinical relevance of RKIP expression as an independent prognostic factor is restricted to the tumour centre. Loss of RKIP predicts features of EMT and correlates with frequent distant metastasis.