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Biomarker expression in rectal cancer tissue before and after neoadjuvant therapy

Authors Boogerd LS, van der Valk MJM, Boonstra MC, Prevoo HA, Hilling DE, van de Velde CJ, Sier CF, Fariña Sarasqueta A, Vahrmeijer AL

Received 4 July 2017

Accepted for publication 21 October 2017

Published 23 March 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 1655—1664


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Jianmin Xu

Leonora SF Boogerd,1 Maxime JM van der Valk,1 Martin C Boonstra,1 Hendrica AJM Prevoo,1 Denise E Hilling,1 Cornelis JH van de Velde,1 Cornelis FM Sier,1 Arantza Fariña Sarasqueta,2 Alexander L Vahrmeijer1

1Department of Surgery, 2Department of Pathology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands

Purpose: Intraoperative identification of rectal cancer (RC) can be challenging, especially because of fibrosis after treatment with preoperative chemo- and radiotherapy (CRT). Tumor-targeted fluorescence imaging can enhance the contrast between tumor and normal tissue during surgery. Promising targets for RC imaging are carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and the tyrosine-kinase receptor Met (c-Met). The effect of CRT on their expression determines their applicability for imaging. Therefore, we investigated whether CRT modifies expression patterns in tumors, lymph node (LN) metastases and adjacent normal rectal tissues.
Patients and methods: Preoperative biopsies, primary tumor specimens and metastatic LNs were collected from 38 RC patients who did not receive CRT (cohort 1) and 34 patients who did (cohort 2). CEA, EpCAM and c-Met expression was determined using immunohistochemical staining and was semiquantified by a total immunostaining score (TIS), consisting of the percentage and intensity of stained tumor cells (0–12).
Results: In both cohorts CEA, EpCAM and c-Met were significantly highly expressed in >60% of tumor tissues compared with adjacent normal epithelium (T/N ratio, P<0.01). EpCAM showed the most homogenous expression in tumors, whereas CEA showed the highest T/N ratio. Most importantly, CEA and EpCAM expression did not significantly change in normal or neoplastic RC tissue after CRT, whereas levels of c-Met changed (P=0.02). Tissues of eight patients with a pathological complete response after CRT showed expression of all biomarkers with TIS close to normal epithelium.
Conclusion: Histological evaluation shows that CEA, EpCAM and c-Met are suitable targets for RC imaging, because all three are significantly enhanced in cancer tissue from primary tumors or LN metastases compared with normal adjacent tissue. Furthermore, the expression of CEA and EpCAM is not significantly changed after CRT. These data underscore the applicability of c-Met and especially, CEA and EpCAM as targets for image-guided RC surgery, both before and after CRT.

Keywords: imaging, tumor markers, CEA, EpCAM, c-Met, preoperative chemo- and radiotherapy

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