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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

TGF-beta receptor 2 downregulation in tumour-associated stroma worsens prognosis and high-grade tumours show more tumour-associated macrophages and lower TGF-beta1 expression in colon carcinoma: a retrospective study

David Bacman1, Susanne Merkel2, Roland Croner2, Thomas Papadopoulos1, Wolfgang Brueckl3 and Arno Dimmler4*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pathology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

2 Department of Surgery, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

4 Institute of Pathology, St. Vincentius hospital, Karlsruhe, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2007, 7:156  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-7-156

Published: 10 August 2007

Abstract

Background

Histological phenotype and clinical behaviour of malignant tumours are not only dependent on alterations in the epithelial cell compartment, but are affected by their interaction with inflammatory cells and tumour-associated stroma. Studies in animal models have shown influence of tumour-associated macrophages (TAM) on histological grade of differentiation in colon carcinoma. Disruption of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signalling in tumour cells is related to more aggressive clinical behaviour. Expression data of components of this pathway in tumour-associated stroma is limited.

Methods

Tissue micro arrays of 310 colon carcinomas from curatively resected patients in UICC stage II and III were established. In a first step we quantified amount of CD68 positive TAMs and expression of components of TGF-beta signalling (TGF-beta1, TGF-beta receptors type 1 and 2, Smad 3 and 4) in tumour and associated stroma. Further we analyzed correlation to histological and clinical parameters (histological grade of differentiation (low-grade (i.e. grade 1 and 2) vs. high-grade (i.e. grade 3 and 4)), lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, 5 year cancer related survival) using Chi-square or Fisher's exact test, when appropriate, to compare frequencies, Kaplan-Meier method to calculate 5-year rates of distant metastases and cancer-related survival and log rank test to compare the rates of distant metastases and survival. To identify independent prognostic factors Cox regression analysis including lymph node status and grading was performed.

Results

High-grade tumours and those with lymph node metastases showed higher rates of TAMs and lower expression of TGF-beta1. Loss of nuclear Smad4 expression in tumor was associated with presence of lymph node metastasis, but no influence on prognosis could be demonstrated. Decrease of both TGF-beta receptors in tumour-associated stroma was associated with increased lymph node metastasis and shorter survival. Stromal TGF-beta receptor 2 expression was an independent prognostic factor for cancer related survival.

Conclusion

Histological phenotype and clinical behaviour of colon cancer is not only influenced by mutational incidents in tumour cells but also affected by interaction of tumour tissue with inflammatory cells like macrophages and associated stroma and TGF-beta signalling is one important part of this crosstalk. Further studies are needed to elucidate the exact mechanisms.