Immunohistochemical expression of folate receptor α in colorectal carcinoma: patterns and biological significance

Jinru Shia, David S. Klimstra, James R. Nitzkorski, Philip S. Low, Mithat Gonen, Ron Landmann, Martin R. Weiser, Wilbur A. Franklin, Franklyn G. Prendergast, Linda Murphy, Laura H. Tang, Larissa Temple, Jose G. Guillem, W. Douglas Wong, Philip B. Paty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Folate receptor α (FRα) has emerged as a potential cancer therapy target with several folate-linked therapeutic agents currently undergoing clinical trials. In addition, FRα expression in tumors may offer prognostic significance. Most studies on FRα expression used reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction or cytofluorimetric assays. The applicability of such methods to paraffin-embedded tissues is limited. The aims of this study were to assess the feasibility of immunohistochemistry in detecting FRα expression and to assess the patterns and clinical significance of FRα expression in colorectal tissues. We used tissue microarrays containing 152 normal colorectal mucosa samples, 42 adenomas, 177 primary, and 52 metastatic colorectal carcinomas. Our results showed that staining for FRα on colorectal tissues was simple and easy to read. FRα positivity was more frequent in carcinomas (33% in primaries and 44% in metastases) than in normal mucosa or adenoma (7% in both) (P < .001). Positive staining in primary carcinomas correlated with younger age (n = 130) (P = .008), presence of distant metastasis (n = 130) (P = .043), and non-high-frequency microsatellite instability status (as detected by the standard polymerase chain reaction method using the 5 National Cancer Institute-recommended markers) (n = 77) (P = .006). Positive staining in primary carcinomas also correlated with a worse 5-year disease-specific survival (P = .04) on univariate but not multivariate analysis. Thus, our data show that there is selective expression of FRα in some colorectal cancers, providing a foundation for investigating the use of folate conjugates for imaging and therapy of colorectal tumors. Furthermore, our results suggest that a possible association exists between FRα expression and the microsatellite instability status in colorectal carcinoma. The significance of such an association as well as the prognostic value of FRα expression deserves further exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Colorectal carcinoma
  • Folate receptor α
  • Immunohistochemical expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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