A85: Natural Killer Cell-like signature observed in locally advanced rectal cancer after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy in a tumour regression grade dependent manner

Matthew Alderdice1,Philip Dunne1,Darragh McArt1,Stephen McQuaid1,Richard Wilson1,Vicky Coyle1,Manuel Salto-Tellez1

1Queens University Belfast, CCRCB, Belfast, UK

Presenting date: Monday 2 November
Presenting time: 12.20-13.10


Background: Around 10-15% of patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) undergo a pathologically complete response (TRG4) to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy; the rest of patients exhibit a spectrum of tumour regression (TRG1-3). Understanding therapy-related genomic alterations may help us to identify underlying biology or novel targets associated with response that could increase the efficacy of therapy in patients that do not benefit from the current standard of care.


Methods: 48 FFPE rectal cancer biopsies and matched resections were analysed using the WG-DASL HumanHT-12_v4 Beadchip array on the illumina iScan. Bioinformatic analysis was conducted in Partek genomics suite and R studio. Limma and glmnet packages were used to identify genes differentially expressed between tumour regression grades. Validation of microarray results will be carried out using IHC, RNAscope and RT-PCR.


Results: Immune response genes were observed from supervised analysis of the biopsies which may have predictive value. Differential gene expression from the resections as well as pre and post therapy analysis revealed induction of genes in a tumour regression dependent manner. Pathway mapping and Gene Ontology analysis of these genes suggested antigen processing and natural killer mediated cytotoxicity respectively. The natural killer-like gene signature was switched off in non-responders and on in the responders. IHC has confirmed the presence of Natural killer cells through CD56+ staining.


Conclusion: Identification of NK cell genes and CD56+ cells in patients responding to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy warrants further investigation into their association with tumour regression grade in LARC. NK cells are known to lyse malignant cells and determining whether their presence is a cause or consequence of response is crucial. Interrogation of the cytokines upregulated in our NK-like signature will help guide future in vitro models.