Immune profile and immunosurveillance in treatment-naive and neoadjuvantly treated esophageal adenocarcinoma

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2020 Apr;69(4):523-533. doi: 10.1007/s00262-019-02475-w. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


The outcome in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is still poor with only 20% of patients in Western populations surviving for more than 5 years. Almost nothing is known about the precise composition of immune cells and their gene expression profiles in primary resected EACs and also nothing compared to neoadjuvant treated EACs. This study analyzes and compares immune profiles of primary resected and neoadjuvant treated esophageal adenocarcinoma and unravels possible targets for immunotherapy. We analyzed 47 EAC in total considering a set of 30 primary treatment-naive EACs and 17 neoadjuvant pretreated (12 × CROSS, 5 × FLOT) using the Nanostring's panel-based gene expression platform including 770 genes being important in malignant tumors and their immune micromileu. Most of the significantly altered genes are involved in the regulation of immune responses, T-and B cell functions as well as antigen processing. Chemokine-receptor axes like the CXCL9, -10,-11/CXCR3- are prominent in esophageal adenocarcinoma with a fold change of up to 9.5 promoting cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. ARG1, as a regulator of T-cell fate is sixfold down-regulated in untreated primary esophageal tumors. The influence of the currently used neoadjuvant treatment revealed a down-regulation of nearly all important checkpoint markers and inflammatory related genes in the local microenvironment. We found a higher expression of checkpoint markers like LAG3, TIM3, CTLA4 and CD276 in comparison to PD-L1/PD-1 supporting clinical trials analyzing the efficacy of a combination of different checkpoint inhibitors in EACs. We found an up-regulation of CD38 or LILRB1 as examples of additional immune escape mechanism.

Keywords: Esophageal adenocarcinoma; Immune profile; Nanostring; RNA expression.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / immunology
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • B7 Antigens / genetics
  • B7 Antigens / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen / genetics
  • CTLA-4 Antigen / immunology
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Esophagectomy / methods
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Immunologic
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • B7 Antigens
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human