Unlike metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) there are to date few reports concerning the predictive value of molecular biomarkers on the clinical outcome in stage II/III CRC patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy. Aim of this study was to assess the predictive value of proteins related with the EGFR- and VEGFR- signalling cascades in these patients.
The patients' data examined in this study were from the collective of the 5-FU/FA versus 5-FU/FA/irinotecan phase III FOGT-4 trial. Tumor tissues were stained by immunohistochemistry for VEGF-C, VEGF-D, VEGFR-3, Hif-1 α, PTEN, AREG and EREG expression and evaluated by two independent, blinded investigators.
Survival analyses were calculated for all patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy in relation to expression of all makers above.
Patients with negative AREG and EREG expression on their tumor had a significant longer DFS in comparison to AREG/EREG positive ones (p< 0.05). The benefit on DFS in AREG-/EREG- patients was even stronger in the group that received 5-FU/FA/irinotecan as adjuvant treatment (p=0.002). Patients with strong expression of PTEN profited more in terms of OS under adjuvant treatment containing irinotecan (p< 0.05). Regarding markers of the VEGFR- pathway we found no correlation of VEGF-C- and VEGFR-3 expression with clinical outcome. Patients with negative VEGF-D expression had a trend to live longer when treated with 5-FU/FA (p=0.106). Patients who were negative for Hif-1 α, were disease-free in more than 50% at the end of the study and showed significant longer DFS-rates than those positive for Hif-1 α (p=0.007). This benefit was even stronger at the group treated with 5-FU/FA/irinotecan (p=0.026). Finally, AREG-/EREG-/PTEN+ patients showed a trend to live longer under combined treatment combination.
The addition of irinotecan to adjuvant treatment with 5-FU/FA does not provide OS or DFS benefit in patients with stage II/III CRC. Nevertheless, AREG/EREG negative, PTEN positive and Hif-1 α negative patients might profit significantly in terms of DFS from a treatment containing fluoropyrimidines and irinotecan. Our results suggest a predictive value of these biomarkers concerning adjuvant chemotherapy with 5-FU/FA +/− irinotecan in stage II/III colorectal cancer.
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