Background: Following neoadjuvant chemotherapy for operable gastroesophageal cancer, lymph node metastasis is the only validated prognostic variable; however, within lymph node groups there is still heterogeneity with risk of relapse. We hypothesized that gene profiles from neoadjuvant chemotherapy treated resection specimens from gastroesophageal cancer patients can be used to define prognostic risk groups to identify patients at risk for relapse.
Patients and methods: The Medical Research Council Adjuvant Gastric Infusional Chemotherapy (MAGIC) trial (n = 202 with high quality RNA) samples treated with perioperative chemotherapy were profiled for a custom gastric cancer gene panel using the NanoString platform. Genes associated with overall survival (OS) were identified using penalized and standard Cox regression, followed by generation of risk scores and development of a NanoString biomarker assay to stratify patients into risk groups associated with OS. An independent dataset served as a validation cohort.
Results: Regression and clustering analysis of MAGIC patients defined a seven-Gene Signature and two risk groups with different OS [hazard ratio (HR) 5.1; P < 0.0001]. The median OS of high- and low-risk groups were 10.2 [95% confidence interval (CI) of 6.5 and 13.2 months] and 80.9 months (CI: 43.0 months and not assessable), respectively. Risk groups were independently prognostic of lymph node metastasis by multivariate analysis (HR 3.6 in node positive group, P = 0.02; HR 3.6 in high-risk group, P = 0.0002), and not prognostic in surgery only patients (n = 118; log rank P = 0.2). A validation cohort independently confirmed these findings.
Conclusions: These results suggest that gene-based risk groups can independently predict prognosis in gastroesophageal cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. This signature and associated assay may help risk stratify these patients for post-surgery chemotherapy in future perioperative chemotherapy-based clinical trials.