Prognostic impact of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes and cancer-associated fibroblasts in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma of the body and tail undergoing resection.
BACKGROUND: The prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer remains poor and novel therapeutic targets are required urgently. Treatment resistance could be due to the tumour microenvironment, a desmoplastic stroma consisting of cancer-associated fibroblasts and tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). The aim of the study was to evaluate the prognostic value of TILs and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in pancreatic cancer of the body and tail. METHODS: Using tissue microarray from resected left-sided pancreatic cancer specimens, the immunohistochemistry of TILs (cluster of differentiation (CD) 45, CD3, CD4, FoxP3 and CD8), CAFs (vimentin and alpha-smooth muscle actin (alphaSMA)) and functional markers (PD-L1 and Ki-67) was examined, and the association with disease-free (DFS) and overall (OS) survival investigated using a computer-assisted quantitative analysis. Patients were classified into two groups, with low or high levels or ratios, using the 75th percentile value as the cut-off. RESULTS: Forty-three patients were included in the study. Their median DFS and OS were 9 and 27 months respectively. A high CD4/CD3 lymphocyte ratio was associated with poorer DFS (8 months versus 11 months for a low ratio) (hazard ratio (HR) 2.23, 95 per cent c.i. 1.04 to 4.61; P = 0.041) and OS (13 versus 27 months respectively) (HR 2.62, 1.11 to 5.88; P = 0.028). A low alphaSMA/vimentin ratio together with a high CD4/CD3 ratio was correlated with poorer outcomes. No significant association was found between Ki-67, PD-L1 and survival. CONCLUSION: In patients with resected left-sided pancreatic cancer, a tumour microenvironment characterized by a high CD4/CD3 lymphocyte ratio along with a low alphaSMA/vimentin ratio is correlated with poorer survival.