Expression of the macrophage antigen CD163 in breast cancer cells is recently shown to be related to early distant recurrence and shortened survival. In this study, 163 patients with rectal cancer, included in the Swedish rectal cancer trial and followed up for a median of 71 months, were examined for the expression of CD163 in the primary tumors. The cancer cells expressed CD163 in the primary tumors in 23% (n = 32) of the patients. In pretreatment biopsies from 101 patients, 10 had CD163-positive cancers and these patients had earlier local recurrence (p < 0.044) and reduced survival time (p < 0.045) compared with those with CD163-negative tumors. When studying surgical specimens from 61 patients randomized to preoperative irradiation (5 x 5 Gy delivered in 1 week), it was found that 31% were CD163 positive whereas the corresponding figure was only 17% for 78 patients who were nonirradiated (p < 0.044), which tentatively may be consistent with X-rays inducing fusion. In CD163-positive tumors there was a reduced apoptotic activity as measured with the Termina deoxynucleotidyl Transferase Biotin-dUTP Nick End Labeling (TUNEL) technique (p = 0.018). There tended also to be an increased proliferation activity measured as an expression of Ki-67 non significant (NS). It is concluded that primary rectal cancers may express CD-163, and this phenotypic macrophage trait is related to early local recurrence, shorter survival time and reduced apoptosis. Furthermore, the expression of CD163 is more common after irradiation.
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