Background: The fact that the receptors for the TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) are almost invariably expressed in colorectal cancer (CRC) represents the rationale for the employment of TRAIL-receptors targeting compounds for the therapy of patients affected by this tumor. Yet, first reports on the use of these bioactive agents provided disappointing results. We therefore hypothesized that loss of membrane-bound TRAIL-R might be a feature of some CRC and that the evaluation of membrane staining rather than that of the overall expression of TRAIL-R might predict the response to TRAIL-R targeting compounds in this tumor. Aim and Methods: Thus, we evaluated the immunofluorescence pattern of TRAIL-receptors and E-cadherin to assess the fraction of membrane-bound TRAIL-receptors in 231 selected patients with early-stage CRC undergoing surgical treatment only. Moreover, we investigated whether membrane staining for TRAIL-receptors as well as the presence of KRAS mutations or of microsatellite instability (MSI) had an effect on survival and thus a prognostic effect. Results: As expected, almost all CRC samples stained positive for TRAIL-R1 and 2. Instead, membrane staining for these receptors was positive in only 71% and 16% of samples respectively. No correlation between KRAS mutation status or MSI-phenotype and prognosis could be detected. TRAIL-R1 staining intensity correlated with survival in univariate analysis, but only membranous staining of TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 on cell membranes was an independent predictor of survival (cox multivariate analysis: TRAIL-R1: p = 0.019, RR 2.06[1.12-3.77]; TRAIL-R2: p = 0.033, RR 3.63[1.11-11.84]). Conclusions: In contrast to the current assumptions, loss of membrane staining for TRAIL-receptors is a common feature of early stage CRC which supersedes the prognostic significance of their staining intensity. Failure to achieve therapeutic effects in recent clinical trials using TRAIL-receptors targeting compounds might be due to insufficient selection of patients bearing tumors with membrane-bound TRAIL-receptors. © 2012 Kriegl et al.
Kriegl, L., Jung, A., Horst, D., Rizzani, A., Jackstadt, R., Hermeking, H., … de Toni, E. N. (2012). Microsatellite Instability, KRAS Mutations and Cellular Distribution of TRAIL-Receptors in Early Stage Colorectal Cancer. PLoS ONE, 7(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051654