Immunogenomic pathways associated with cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration and survival in colorectal cancer
Yuanyuan Shen, Yue Guan, Justin J. Hummel, Chi-Ren Shyu, Jonathan B. Mitchem
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cancer killer in the US today and patients with metastatic disease have only a 14% 5-year survival. One of the most impactful recent advances in cancer therapy, immune checkpoint inhibition, has not been shown to be effective for the majority of these patients. In this study, we use The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and recently developed informatic-based tools to identify targets for immune based therapy in colorectal cancer patients. Open access,
... processed (level 3) mRNA data and clinical data from colorectal patients from the TCGA was downloaded from FireCloud. Using the Microenvironment Cell Populations-Counter method (MCP-Counter), cytotoxic lymphocyte scores were calculated for all patients. Patients were then grouped by cytotoxic lymphocyte score (High vs Low), pathologic stage, and location to identify differentially expressed genes. Pathway enrichment analysis was performed using Reactome to determine differentially expressed genes associated with immune pathways. Survival analysis was performed with identified differentially expressed genes. In the TCGA dataset, there are 461 colon and 172 rectal cancer patients. After stratifying patients by cytotoxic lymphocyte score, anatomical location, and stage, we found a significant number of differentially expressed genes. We identified one pathway, "immunoregulatory interactions between a lymphoid and non-lymphoid cell", that was highly enriched and included in all tumor locations and stages. Survival analysis performed with differentially expressed genes in this pathway identified 21 different genes associated with survival and cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration, with ~ 70% of these genes occurring in the metastatic right-sided CRC group. Specifically, all genes associated with survival in the metastatic right-sided colorectal cancer group with low cytotoxic lymphocyte scores positively impacted survival. Utilizing the TCGA, a publicly available dataset, and informatics-based analyses, we identified potential targets to improve immune based therapy in colorectal cancer. Additionally, we note the most targets in metastatic right-sided CRC patients, the patient group with the worst predicted survival. The results from this study demonstrate the ability of informatics-based analytic techniques to identify new therapeutic targets as well as improve patient selection for intervention, helping us to achieve the goals of precision-based oncology.