Prognostic significance of natural killer cell-associated markers in gastric cancer: quantitative analysis using multiplex immunohistochemistry

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Abstract

Background: Natural killer (NK) cells mediate the anti-tumoral immune response as an important component of innate immunity. The aim of this study was to investigate the prognostic significance and functional implication of NK cell-associated surface receptors in gastric cancer (GC) by using multiplex immunohistochemistry (mIHC). Methods: We performed an mIHC on tissue microarray slides, including 55 GC tissue samples. A total of 11 antibodies including CD57, NKG2A, CD16, HLA-E, CD3, CD20, CD45, CD68, CK, SMA, and ki-67 were used. CD45 + CD3-CD57 + cells were considered as CD57 + NK cells. Results: Among CD45 + immune cells, the proportion of CD57 + NK cell was the lowest (3.8%), whereas that of CD57 + and CD57- T cells (65.5%) was the highest, followed by macrophages (25.4%), and B cells (5.3%). CD57 + NK cells constituted 20% of CD45 + CD57 + immune cells while the remaining 80% were CD57 + T cells. The expression of HLA-E in tumor cells correlated with that in tumoral T cells, B cells, and macrophages, but not CD57 + NK cells. The higher density of tumoral CD57 + NK cells and tumoral CD57 + NKG2A + NK cells was associated with inferior survival. Conclusions: Although the number of CD57 + NK cells was lower than that of other immune cells, CD57 + NK cells and CD57 + NKG2A + NK cells were significantly associated with poor outcomes, suggesting that NK cell subsets play a critical role in GC progression. NK cells and their inhibitory receptor, NKG2A, may be potential targets in GC.

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Na, H. Y., Park, Y., Nam, S. K., Koh, J., Kwak, Y., Ahn, S. H., … Lee, H. S. (2021). Prognostic significance of natural killer cell-associated markers in gastric cancer: quantitative analysis using multiplex immunohistochemistry. Journal of Translational Medicine, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-03203-8

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