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The prognostic role of macrophage polarization in the colorectal cancer microenvironment.

Authors: Väyrynen, Juha P; Haruki, Koichiro; Lau, Mai Chan; Väyrynen, Sara A; Zhong, Rong; Dias Costa, Andressa; Borowsky, Jennifer; Zhao, Melissa; Fujiyoshi, Kenji; Arima, Kota; Twombly, Tyler S; Kishikawa, Junko; Gu, Simeng; Aminmozaffari, Saina; Shi, Shanshan; Baba, Yoshifumi; Akimoto, Naohiko; Ugai, Tomotaka; da Silva, Annacarolina; Guerriero, Jennifer L; Song, Mingyang; Wu, Kana; Chan, Andrew T; Nishihara, Reiko; Fuchs, Charles S; Meyerhardt, Jeffrey A; Giannakis, Marios; Ogino, Shuji; Nowak, Jonathan A

Online: https://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/content/9/1/8

Issue: Cancer Immunol Res . 2021 Jan;9(1):8-19.


Macrophages are among the most common cells in the colorectal cancer microenvironment, but their prognostic significance is incompletely understood. Using multiplexed immunofluorescence for CD68, CD86, IRF5, MAF, MRC1 (CD206), and KRT (cytokeratins) combined with digital image analysis and machine learning, we assessed the polarization spectrum of tumor-associated macrophages in 931 colorectal carcinomas. We then applied Cox proportional hazards regression to assess prognostic survival associations of intraepithelial and stromal densities of M1-like and M2-like macrophages, while controlling for potential confounders, including stage and microsatellite instability status. We found that high tumor stromal density of M2-like macrophages was associated with worse cancer-specific survival, whereas tumor stromal density of M1-like macrophages was not significantly associated with better cancer-specific survival. High M1:M2 density ratio in tumor stroma was associated with better cancer-specific survival. Overall macrophage densities in tumor intraepithelial or stromal regions were not prognostic. These findings suggested that macrophage polarization state, rather than their overall density, was associated with cancer-specific survival, with M1- and M2-like macrophage phenotypes exhibiting distinct prognostic roles. These results highlight the utility of a multimarker strategy to assess the macrophage polarization at single cell resolution within the tumor microenvironment.