MicroRNA MIR21 and T cells in colorectal cancer

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Cancer Immunology Research








© 2015 American Association for Cancer Research. The complex interactions between colorectal neoplasia and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment remain to be elucidated. Experimental evidence suggests that microRNA MIR21 (miR-21) suppresses antitumor T-cell-mediated immunity. Thus, we hypothesized that tumor MIR21 expression might be inversely associated with T-cell density in colorectal carcinoma tissue. Using 538 rectal and colon cancer cases from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, we measured tumor MIR21 expression by a quantitative reverse-transcription PCR assay. Densities of CD3+, CD8+, CD45RO (PTPRC)+, and FOXP3+ cells in tumor tissue were determined by tissue microarray immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted image analysis. Ordinal logistic regression analysis was conducted to assess the association of MIR21 expression (ordinal quartiles as a predictor variable) with T-cell density (ordinal quartiles as an outcome variable), adjusting for tumor molecular features, including microsatellite instability; CpG island methylator phenotype; KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA mutations; and LINE-1 methylation. We adjusted the two-sided a level to 0.012 for multiple hypothesis testing. Tumor MIR21 expression was inversely associated with densities of CD3+ and CD45RO+ cells (Ptrend < 0.0005). Themultivariateodds ratio of the highest versus lowest quartile of MIR21 for a unit increase in quartile categories of CD3+ or CD45RO+ cells was 0.44 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.28 to 0.68] or 0.41 (95% CI, 0.26-0.64), respectively. Our data support a possible role of tumor epigenetic deregulation by noncoding RNA in suppressing the antitumor T-cell-mediated adaptive immune response and suggest MIR21 as a potential target for immunotherapy and prevention in colorectal cancer.

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