Tumour infiltrating lymphocyte status is superior to histological grade, DNA mismatch repair and BRAF mutation for prognosis of colorectal adenocarcinomas with mucinous differentiation
Mucinous colorectal adenocarcinoma (CRC) is conventionally defined by extracellular mucin comprising >50% of the tumour area, while tumours with ≤50% mucin are designated as having a mucinous component. However, these definitions are largely arbitrary and comparisons of clinico-molecular features and outcomes by proportion of mucinous component are limited. A cohort of 1643 patients with stage II/III cancer was examined for tumour mucinous component, DNA mismatch repair (MMR) status, BRAF mutation and tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Tumours with ≤50% mucinous component exhibited similar characteristics as mucinous tumours, including association with female gender, proximal location, high grade, TIL-high, defective MMR (dMMR) and BRAF mutation. Proportion of mucinous component did not stratify disease-free survival (DFS). In univariate analysis dMMR status, but not histological grade, stratified survival for mucinous and mucinous component tumours; however, in multivariate analysis dMMR status was not an independent predictor. BRAF mutation prognostic value depended on mucinous differentiation and MMR status, with poor prognosis limited to non-mucinous pMMR tumours (HR 2.61, 95% CI 1.69-4.03; p < 0.001). TIL status was a strong independent predictor of DFS in mucinous/mucinous component tumours (HR 0.40, 95% CI 0.23-0.67; p < 0.001), and a superior predictor of prognosis compared with histological grade, MMR and BRAF mutation. Mucinous component and mucinous stage II/III CRCs exhibit clinico-molecular resemblances, with histological grade and BRAF mutation lacking prognostic value. Prognosis for these tumours was instead strongly associated with TIL status, with the most favourable outcomes in TIL-high dMMR tumours, whilst TIL-low tumours had poor outcomes irrespective of MMR status.