Immune microenvironment profiling of normal appearing colorectal mucosa biopsied over repeat patient visits reproducibly separates lynch syndrome patients based on their history of colon cancer

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August 11, 2023
Frontiers in Oncology
Brand Rhonda M., Dudley Beth, Karloski Eve, Zyhowski Ashley, Raphael Rebecca, Pitlor Danielle, Metter E. Jeffrey, Pai Reet, Lee Kenneth, Brand Randall E., Uttam Shikhar

Introduction: Lynch syndrome (LS) is the most common hereditary cause of colorectal cancer (CRC), increasing lifetime risk of CRC by up to 70%. Despite this higher lifetime risk, disease penetrance in LS patients is highly variable and most LS patients undergoing CRC surveillance will not develop CRC. Therefore, biomarkers that can correctly and consistently predict CRC risk in LS patients are needed to both optimize LS patient surveillance and help identify better prevention strategies that reduce risk of CRC development in the subset of high-risk LS patients.

Methods: Normal-appearing colorectal tissue biopsies were obtained during repeat surveillance colonoscopies of LS patients with and without a history of CRC, healthy controls (HC), and patients with a history of sporadic CRC. Biopsies were cultured in an ex-vivo explant system and their supernatants were assayed via multiplexed ELISA to profile the local immune signaling microenvironment. High quality cytokines were identified using the rxCOV fidelity metric. These cytokines were used to perform elastic-net penalized logistic regression-based biomarker selection by computing a new measure – overall selection probability – that quantifies the ability of each marker to discriminate between patient cohorts being compared.

Results: Our study demonstrated that cytokine based local immune microenvironment profiling was reproducible over repeat visits and sensitive to patient LS-status and CRC history. Furthermore, we identified sets of cytokines whose differential expression was predictive of LS-status in patients when compared to sporadic CRC patients and in identifying those LS patients with or without a history of CRC. Enrichment analysis based on these biomarkers revealed an LS and CRC status dependent constitutive inflammatory state of the normal appearing colonic mucosa.

Discussion: This prospective pilot study demonstrated that immune profiling of normal appearing colonic mucosa discriminates LS patients with a prior history of CRC from those without it, as well as patients with a history of sporadic CRC from HC. Importantly, it suggests the existence of immune signatures specific to LS-status and CRC history. We anticipate that our findings have the potential to assess CRC risk in individuals with LS and help in preemptively mitigating it by optimizing surveillance and identifying candidate prevention targets. Further studies are required to validate our findings in an independent cohort of LS patients over multiple visits.