An immunogenomic stratification of colorectal cancer : implications for development of targeted immunotherapy

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Although tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) density is prognostic and predictive in colorectal cancer (CRC), the impact of tumor genetics upon colorectal immunobiology is unclear. Identification of genetic factors that influence the tumor immunophenotype is essential to improve the effectiveness of stratified immunotherapy approaches. We carried out a bioinformatics analysis of CRC data in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) involving two-dimensional hierarchical clustering to define an immune signature that we used to characterize the immune response across key patient groups. An immune signature termed The Co-ordinate Immune Response Cluster (CIRC) comprising 28 genes was coordinately regulated across the patient population. Four patient groups were delineated on the basis of cluster expression. Group A, which was heavily enriched for patients with microsatellite instability (MSI-H) and POL mutations, exhibited high CIRC expression, including the presence of several inhibitory molecules: CTLA4, PDL1, PDL2, LAG3, and TIM3. In contrast, RAS mutation was enriched in patient groups with lower CIRC expression. This work links the genetics and immunobiology of colorectal tumorigenesis, with implications for the development of stratified immunotherapeutic approaches. Microsatellite instability and POL mutations are linked with high mutational burden and high immune infiltration, but the coordinate expression of inhibitory pathways observed suggests combination checkpoint blockade therapy may be required to improve efficacy. In contrast, RAS mutant tumors predict for a relatively poor immune infiltration and low inhibitory molecule expression. In this setting, checkpoint blockade may be less efficacious, highlighting a requirement for novel strategies in this patient group.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere976052
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2015


  • CIRC, Co-ordinate Immune Response Cluster
  • CMS, consensus molecular subtypes
  • CRC, colorectal cancer
  • CRCSC, colorectal cancer subtyping consortium
  • MSI-H, microsatellite unstable (high)
  • MSI-L, microsatellite unstable (low)
  • MSS, microsatellite stable
  • RAS
  • TCGA, The Cancer Genome Atlas
  • TILs, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
  • colorectal cancer
  • immune signature
  • microsatellite instability
  • stratification


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