Background: Epithelial ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal gynecologic malignancies. Clinicopathological factors do not permit precise prognosis and cannot provide guidance to specific treatments. In this study we assessed tumor infiltrating CD8+ T cells in association with Ki67 proliferation index and evaluated their prognostic impact in EOC samples.
Methods: CD8+ cells and Ki67 proliferation index were immunohistochemically determined on tissue microarrays including 203 primary epithelial ovarian tumors. Additionally, CD8 gene expression was assessed with RT-qPCR. Correlations were analyzed using Pearson's correlation coefficients, ANOVA or T-test, or Fischer's exact tests. Prognostic impact was evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox regression model.
Results: The density of CD8+ infiltrating lymphocytes did not correlate with tumor cell proliferation. Epithelial ovarian cancer patients with no Ki67+ cells in the tumor had a more than three times higher risk to die compared to the population with Ki67+ cells in the tumor (Hazard ratio (HR) = 3.34, 95%CI 1.59-7.04). High CD8+ cell infiltration was associated with improved overall survival (HR = 0.82, 95%CI 0.73-0.92).
Conclusions: The density of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes is independent of tumor cell proliferation. Ovarian cancer patients with Ki67- tumors showed a significantly reduced overall survival, presumably due to no or poor response to platinum-based chemotherapy. Moreover, the association of high densities of tumor infiltrating cytotoxic T lymphocytes with a better overall survival was confirmed.