Heat shock protein 70 and tumor-infiltrating NK cells as prognostic indicators for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after radiochemotherapy: A multicentre retrospective study of the German Cancer Consortium


Heat shock protein 70 and tumor-infiltrating NK cells as prognostic indicators for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after radiochemotherapy: A multicentre retrospective study of the German Cancer Consortium

Stangl, S.; Tontcheva, N.; Sievert, W.; Shevtsov, M.; Niu, M.; Schmid, T.; Pigorsch, S.; Combs, S.; Haller, B.; Balermpas, P.; Rödel, F.; Rödel, C.; Fokas, E.; Krause, M.; Linge, A.; Lohaus, F.; Baumann, M.; Tinhofer, I.; Budach, V.; Stuschke, M.; Grosu, A.; Abdollahi, A.; Debus, J.; Belka, C.; Maihöfer, C.; Mönnich, D.; Zips, D.; Multhoff, G.

Abstract

Tumor cells frequently overexpress heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) and present it on their cell surface, where it can be recognized by pre-activated NK cells. In our retrospective study the expression of Hsp70 was determined in relation to tumor-infiltrating CD56+ NK cells in formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tumor specimens of patients with SCCHN (N = 145) as potential indicators for survival and disease recurrence. All patients received radical surgery and postoperative cisplatin-based radiochemotherapy (RCT). In general, Hsp70 expression was stronger, but with variable intensities, in tumor compared to normal tissues. Patients with high Hsp70 expressing tumors (scores 3-4) showed significantly decreased overall survival (OS; p = 0.008), local progression-free survival (LPFS; p = 0.034) and distant metastases-free survival (DMFS; p = 0.044), compared to those with low Hsp70 expression (scores 0-2), which remained significant after adjustment for relevant prognostic variables. The adverse prognostic value of a high Hsp70 expression for OS was also observed in patient cohorts with p16- (p = 0.001), p53- (p = 0.0003) and HPV16 DNA-negative (p = 0.001) tumors. The absence or low numbers of tumor-infiltrating CD56+ NK cells also correlated with significantly decreased OS (p = 0.0001), LPFS (p = 0.0009) and DMFS (p = 0.0001). A high Hsp70 expression and low numbers of tumor-infiltrating NK cells have the highest negative predictive value (p = 0.00004). In summary, a strong Hsp70 expression and low numbers of tumor-infiltrating NK cells correlate with unfavorable outcome following surgery and RCT in patients with SCCHN, and thus serve as negative prognostic markers.

Keywords: Hsp70; IHC; NK cells; SCCHN; prognostic biomarker; retrospective trial

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