Background: OX40 is a TNF receptor family member expressed by activated T cells. Its triggering by OX40 ligand promotes lymphocyte survival and memory generation. Anti-OX40 agonistic monoclonal antibodies (mAb) are currently being tested in cancer immunotherapy. We explored the prognostic significance of tumor infiltration by OX40+ cells in a large colorectal cancer (CRC) collective.
Methods: OX40 gene expression was analyzed in 50 freshly excised CRC and corresponding healthy mucosa by qRT-PCR. A tissue microarray including 657 clinically annotated CRC specimens was stained with anti-OX40, -CD8 and -FOXP3 mAbs by standard immunohistochemistry. The CRC cohort was randomly split into training and validation sets. Correlations between CRC infiltration by OX40+ cells alone, or in combination with CD8+ or FOXP3+ cells, and clinical-pathological data and overall survival were comparatively evaluated.
Results: OX40 gene expression in CRC significantly correlated with FOXP3 and CD8 gene expression. High CRC infiltration by OX40+ cells was significantly associated with favorable prognosis in training and validation sets in univariate, but not multivariate, Cox regression analysis. CRC with OX40(high)/CD8(high) infiltration were characterized by significantly prolonged overall survival, as compared to tumors with OX40(low)/CD8(high), OX40(high)/CD8(low) or OX40(low)/CD8(low) infiltration in both uni- and multivariate analysis. In contrast, prognostic significance of OX40+ and FOXP3+ cell infiltration was not enhanced by a combined evaluation. Irrespective of TNM stage, CRC with OX40(high)/CD8(high) density infiltrates showed an overall survival similar to that of all stage I CRC included in the study.
Conclusions: OX40(high)/CD8(high) density tumor infiltration represents an independent, favorable, prognostic marker in CRC with an overall survival similar to stage I cancers.
Keywords: CD8; OX40; colorectal cancer; microenvironment; prognosis.