Wang J, et al. J Cell Mol Med 2020.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers with an estimated 1.8 million new cases worldwide and associated with high mortality rates of 881 000 CRC-related deaths in 2018. Screening programs and new therapies have only marginally improved the survival of CRC patients. Immune-related genes (IRGs) have attracted attention in recent years as therapeutic targets. The aim of this study was to identify an immune-related prognostic signature for CRC. To this end, we combined
gene expression and clinical data from the CRC data sets of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) into an integrated immune landscape profile. We identified a total of 476 IRGs that were differentially expressed in CRC vs normal tissues, of which 18 were survival related according to univariate Cox analysis. Stepwise multivariate Cox proportional hazards analysis established an immune-related prognostic signature consisting of SLC10A2, FGF2, CCL28, NDRG1, ESM1, UCN, UTS2 and TRDC. The predictive ability of this signature for 3- and 5-year overall survival was determined using receiver operating characteristics (ROC), and the respective areas under the curve (AUC) were 79.2% and 76.6%. The signature showed moderate predictive accuracy in the validation and GSE38832 data sets as well. Furthermore, the 8-IRG signature correlated significantly with tumour stage, invasion, lymph node metastasis and distant metastasis by univariate Cox analysis, and was established an independent prognostic factor by multivariate Cox regression analysis for CRC. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed a relationship between the IRG prognostic signature and various biological pathways. Focal adhesions and ECM-receptor interactions were positively correlated with the risk scores, while cytosolic DNA sensing and metabolism-related pathways were negatively correlated. Finally, the bioinformatics results were validated by real-time RT-qPCR. In conclusion, we identified and validated a novel, immune-related prognostic signature for patients with CRC, and this signature reflects the dysregulated tumour immune microenvironment and has a potential for better CRC patient management.