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J Clin Oncol. 2009 Jan 10;27(2):186-92. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2008.18.7229. Epub 2008 Dec 8.

Tumor-infiltrating FOXP3+ T regulatory cells show strong prognostic significance in colorectal cancer.

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  • 1School of Surgery and Biostatistics Unit, Cancer Trials, Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, University of Western Australia, Australia.



To determine the prognostic significance of FOXP3(+) lymphocyte (Treg) density in colorectal cancer compared with conventional histopathologic features and with CD8(+) and CD45RO(+) lymphocyte densities.


Tissue microarrays and immunohistochemistry were used to assess the densities of CD8(+), CD45RO(+), and FOXP3(+) lymphocytes in tumor tissue and normal colonic mucosa from 967 stage II and stage III colorectal cancers. These were evaluated for associations with histopathologic features and patient survival.


FOXP3(+) Treg density was higher in tumor tissue compared with normal colonic mucosa, whereas CD8(+) and CD45RO(+) cell densities were lower. FOXP3(+) Tregs were not associated with any histopathologic features, with the exception of tumor stage. Multivariate analysis showed that stage, vascular invasion, and FOXP3(+) Treg density in normal and tumor tissue were independent prognostic indicators, but not CD8(+) and CD45RO(+). High FOXP3(+) Treg density in normal mucosa was associated with worse prognosis (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.51; 95% CI, 1.07 to 2.13; P = .019). In contrast, a high density of FOXP3(+) Tregs in tumor tissue was associated with improved survival (HR = 0.54; 95% CI, 0.38 to 0.77; P = .001).


FOXP3(+) Treg density in normal and tumor tissue had stronger prognostic significance in colorectal cancer compared with CD8(+) and CD45RO(+) lymphocytes. The finding of improved survival associated with a high density of tumor-infiltrating FOXP3(+) Tregs in colorectal cancer contrasts with several other solid cancer types. The inclusion of FOXP3(+) Treg density may help to improve the prognostication of early-stage colorectal cancer.

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