Prognostic and Predictive Cross-Roads of Microsatellite Instability and Immune Response to Colon Cancer

Luigi Laghi, Francesca Negri, Federica Gaiani, Tommaso Cavalleri, Fabio Grizzi, Gian Luigi De' Angelis, Alberto Malesci

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Understanding molecular features of colon cancer has shed light on its pathogenesis and progression. Over time, some of these features acquired clinical dignity and were incorporated in decision making. Namely, microsatellite instability (MSI) due to mismatch repair of defects, which primarily was adopted for the diagnosis of Lynch syndrome, became recognized as the biomarker of a different disease type, showing a less aggressive behavior. MSI tumors harbor high amounts of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) due to their peculiar load in neoantigens. However, microsatellite stable colon cancer may also show high amounts of TILs, and this feature is as well associated with better outcomes. High TIL loads are in general associated with a favorable prognosis, especially in stage II colon cancer, and therein identifies a patient subset with the lowest probability of relapse. With respect to post-surgical adjuvant treatment, particularly in stage III, TILs predictive ability seems to weaken along with the progression of the disease, being less evident in high risk patients. Moving from cohort studies to the analysis of a series from clinical trials contributed to increase the robustness of TILs as a biomarker. The employment of high TIL densities as an indicator of good prognosis in early-stage colon cancers is strongly advisable, while in late-stage colon cancers the employment as an indicator of good responsiveness to post-surgical therapy requires refinement. It remains to be clarified whether TILs could help in identifying those patients with node-positive cancers to whom adjuvant treatment could be spared, at least in low-risk groups as defined by the TNM staging system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 18 2020


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