Background: Host immune response may predict the course of colorectal cancer. We examined the survival of 468 colorectal cancer patients associated with two tumor-infiltrating immune biomarkers, the number of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), and the activated CTLs, as reflected by the number of cells expressing granzyme B (GZMB) in the prospective Iowa Women's Health Study. Methods: Using paraffin-embedded tissue samples, we constructed and immunostained tumor microarrays with CD8 (for CTL) and GZMB antibodies. We scored CTL and GZMB densities in tumor epithelial and stromal tissues and also created a composite score for each biomarker (sum of the scores across tissue compartments). Cox regression estimated the HR and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for all-cause and colorectal cancer-specific death associated with each composite score. Results: CTL and GZMB composite scores were positively correlated (r 0.65) and each biomarker was inversely correlated with stage at diagnosis. Both composite scores were higher in proximal colon tumors and tumors characterized by MSI-high, CIMP-high, or BRAF mutation status. HRs (95% CI) were 0.53 (0.38-0.75; Ptrend 0.0004) and 0.66 (0.51-0.86; Ptrend 0.002) for all-cause death, respectively, and 0.30 (0.18-0.51; Ptrend < 0.0001) and 0.41 (0.27-0.63; Ptrend < 0.0001) for colorectal cancer-related death, respectively. Including CTL and GZMB scores simultaneously in the model significantly improved the predictive performance of the models for all-cause and colorectal cancer-related death. Conclusions: Higher tumor infiltration with CTL and GZMB cells is associated with improved all-cause and cancer-specific survival of colorectal cancer patients. Impact: Both the number of CTLs and GZMB appear to be useful prognostic factors in colorectal cancer, irrespective of stage.
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