Colorectal cancer staging criteria do not rely on examination of neuronal tissue. The authors previously demonstrated that perineural invasion is an independent prognostic factor of outcomes in colorectal cancer. For the current study, they hypothesized that neurogenesis occurs in colorectal cancer and portends an aggressive tumor phenotype.
In total, samples from 236 patients with colorectal cancer were used to create a tissue array and database. Tissue array slides were immunostained for protein gene product 9.5 (PGP9.5) to identify nerve tissue. The correlation between markers of neurogenesis and oncologic outcomes was determined. The effect of colorectal cancer cells on stimulating neurogenesis in vitro was evaluated using a dorsal root ganglia coculture model.
Patients whose tumors exhibited high degrees of neurogenesis had 50% reductions in 5-year overall survival and disease-free survival compared with patients whose tumors contained no detectable neurogenesis (P = .002 and P = .006, respectively). Patients with stage II disease and high degrees of neurogenesis had greater reductions in 5-year overall survival and disease-free survival compared with lymph node-negative patients with no neurogenesis (P = .002 and P = .008, respectively). Patients with stage II disease and high degrees of neurogenesis had lower 5-year overall survival and disease-free survival compared with patients who had stage III disease with no neurogenesis (P = .01 and P = .008, respectively). Colorectal cancer cells stimulated neurogenesis and exhibited evidence of neuroepithelial interactions between nerves and tumor cells in vitro.
Neurogenesis in colorectal cancer appeared to play a critical role in colorectal cancer progression. Furthermore, the current results indicated that neurogenesis functions as an independent predictor of outcomes and may play a role in therapy stratification for patients with lymph node-negative disease. Cancer 2011;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.