Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma (GEP-NEC) is a poorly differentiated grade 3 neuroendocrine neoplasm, of which the overall survival is poor with limited treatment options. Immune checkpoint related therapy such as PD-1 blocking has successfully been used in some solid tumor treatment. In this study, we investigated the infiltration of immune-cells and PD-1/PD-L1 blockade biomarkers to improve understanding of the tumor immune microenvironment in GEP-NEC.
Stromal and tumor cells expressing CD3, CD8 and CD68 protein were assessed in 32 cases of GEP-NEC by immunohistochemistry. Their tumor mutational burden (TMB) and microsatellite instability (MSI) were measured by gene sequencing. Software mSINGS MSIsensor and MSIseq were used to evaluate MSI and MSI status was set when more than two software showed the MSI. The Mann-Whitney U test and Kruskal-Wallis test were used to analyze the correlation of markers expression with clinicopathological parameters. Kaplan -Meier curves were applied in survival analyses.
In the study, 65.6% of the patients were male and the median age was 65. The predominant primary sites were stomach (66%) and pancreas (19%). High infiltration (more than 25% stromal area infiltration) of CD3, CD8 and CD68 immune cells were found in 84%, 47% and 81% of the patients, respectively. High expression of CD3 correlated with high expression of CD8 and CD68 (p < 0.05). Average of TMB was 5.84 mutations per megabase. 57% of the patients were classified as having intermediate TMB (5-15 mutations/megabase) with the remaining classified as having low TMB (0-5 mutations/megabase). None of the patients was in MSI status under our evaluation. Among the baseline characteristics, patients in stage IV of TNM showed lower CD8 expression (p < 0.05). No significant association was observed between the investigated markers and survival.
The study contributes to the understanding of immune microenvironment of GEP-NEC. The association of clinicopathological features with PD-1/PD-L1 blockade biomarkers and immune cells in GEP-NEC were explored. This understanding should help to improve predictions of the impact of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in GEP-NEC patients.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) Initiative for innovative Medicine (CAMS-I2M) 2017-I2M-1-001.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.