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Schardey, Josefine; Lu, Can; Neumann, Jens; Wirth, Ulrich; Li, Qiang; Jiang, Tianxiao; Zimmermann, Petra; Andrassy, Joachim; Bazhin, Alexandr V; Werner, Jens; Kühn, Florian (2023): Differential Immune Infiltration Profiles in Colitis-Associated Colorectal Cancer versus Sporadic Colorectal Cancer. Cancers 2023, 15 (19): 4743. ISSN 2072-6694

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Background: Chronic inflammation is a significant factor in colorectal cancer (CRC) development, especially in colitis-associated CRC (CAC). T-cell exhaustion is known to influence inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) progression and antitumor immunity in IBD patients. This study aimed to identify unique immune infiltration characteristics in CAC patients. Methods: We studied 20 CAC and 20 sporadic CRC (sCRC) patients, who were matched by tumor stage, grade, and location. Immunohistochemical staining targeted various T-cell markers (CD3, CD4, CD8, and FOXP3), T-cell exhaustion markers (TOX and TIGIT), a B-cell marker (CD20), and a neutrophil marker (CD66b) in tumor and tumor-free mucosa from both groups. The quantification of the tumor immune stroma algorithm assessed immune-infiltrating cells. Results: CAC patients had significantly lower TOX+ cell infiltration than sCRC in tumors (p = 0.02) and paracancerous tissues (p < 0.01). Right-sided CAC showed increased infiltration of TOX+ cells (p = 0.01), FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells (p < 0.01), and CD20+ B-cells (p < 0.01) compared to left-sided CAC. In sCRC, higher tumor stages (III and IV) had significantly lower TIGIT+ infiltrate than stages I and II. In CAC, high CD3+ (p < 0.01) and CD20+ (p < 0.01) infiltrates correlated with improved overall survival. In sCRC, better survival was associated with decreased TIGIT+ cells (p < 0.038) and reduced CD8+ infiltrates (p = 0.02). Conclusion: In CAC, high CD3+ and CD20+ infiltrates relate to improved survival, while this association is absent in sCRC. The study revealed marked differences in TIGIT and TOX expression, emphasizing distinctions between CAC and sCRC. T-cell exhaustion appears to have a different role in CAC development.

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