Experimental evidence suggests that the let-7 family of noncoding RNAs suppresses adaptive immune responses, contributing to immune evasion by the tumor. We hypothesized that the amount of let-7a and let-7b expression in colorectal carcinoma might be associated with limited T-lymphocyte infiltrates in the tumor microenvironment and worse clinical outcome. Utilizing the molecular pathological epidemiology resources of 795 rectal and colon cancers in two U.S.-nationwide prospective cohort studies, we measured tumor-associated let-7a and let-7b expression levels by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR, and CD3+, CD8+, CD45RO (PTPRC)+, and FOXP3+ cell densities by tumor tissue microarray immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted image analysis. Logistic regression analysis and Cox proportional hazards regression were used to assess associations of let-7a (and let-7b) expression (quartile predictor variables) with T-cell densities (binary outcome variables) and mortality, respectively, controlling for tumor molecular features, including microsatellite instability, CpG island methylator phenotype, LINE-1 methylation, and KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA mutations. Compared with cases in the lowest quartile of let-7a expression, those in the highest quartile were associated with lower densities of CD3+ [multivariate odds ratio (OR), 0.40; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.23-0.67; Ptrend = 0.003] and CD45RO+ cells (multivariate OR, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.17-0.58; Ptrend = 0.0004), and higher colorectal cancer-specific mortality (multivariate hazard ratio, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.42-3.13; Ptrend = 0.001). In contrast, let-7b expression was not significantly associated with T-cell density or colorectal cancer prognosis. Our data support the role of let-7a in suppressing antitumor immunity in colorectal cancer and suggest let-7a as a potential target of immunotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research