Cancer Sci. 2020 Nov 6. doi: 10.1111/cas.14723. Online ahead of print.
Downregulation of Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I has been postulated to be a mechanism of adaptive immune escape in various tumors, especially microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) colorectal cancer (CRC). In this study, we aimed to investigate HLA class I and β2-microglobulin (β2M) expression in MSI-H and microsatellite stable (MSS) CRCs and determine its prognostic impact. The drepresentative areas from tumor center (TC) and tumor periphery (TP) from 300 CRCs, including 161 MSI-H and
139 MSS cases, were selected to construct a tissue microarray. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) for HLA A/B/C, β2M, CD3, and CD8 was performed. Reduced HLA A/B/C expression was detected in 113 (70.2%) MSI-H and 54 (38.8%) MSS cases, while reduced β2M expression was observed in 69 (42.9%) MSI-H and 17 (12.2%) MSS cases. Although reduced β2M expression was associated with higher pT stage in MSI-H CRC with borderline significance, no association was found between HLA A/B/C and β2M expression with survival. Interestingly, reduced HLA A/B/C expression in MSS was associated with higher stage, and reduced HLA A/B/C and β2M expression was an independent prognostic factor in multivariate analysis. In conclusion, reduced HLA A/B/C and β2M expression was frequently observed in immunotherapy-naive MSI-H CRC, suggesting the possibility of primary resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitor. Interestingly, downregulation of HLA A/B/C and β2M was associated with poor prognosis in MSS cancers. Overall, IHC for HLA A/B/C and β2M might be a feasible predictive or prognostic tool in CRC.