Increasing evidence suggests that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) plays an oncomodulatory role in human cancers. In colorectal cancer (CRC), presence of HCMV in tumours has been associated with a poor outcome in elderly patients. This study aimed to investigate the association between HCMV and the outcome of non-elderly patients with CRC. In tumour samples, HCMV DNA was detected by PCR. Viral transcript and protein were detected by in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemical staining (IHC), respectively. Clinical, pathological and survival data were compared between patients with HCMV-positive and -negative tumours. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) was used to analyse the expression levels of cellular signals related to CRC progression and metastasis. Among 89 CRC non-elderly patients aged <65 years, HCMV was detected in 31 (34.8 %) tumour samples by PCR. By ISH and IHC, viral transcript and protein specifically localized to the cytoplasm of neoplastic mucosal epithelium. Outcome analysis revealed a more favourable disease-free survival (DFS) rate in patients with HCMV-positive tumours (P<0.01), specifically in patients with stage III disease. In a multivariate Cox proportional-hazard model, tumoural presence of HCMV independently predicted a higher DFS rate (hazard ratio 0.22; 95% confidence interval 0.075-0.66, P<0.01). By qRT-PCR, the tumoural levels of interleukin-1 were relatively lower in samples positive for HCMV. The results suggest that HCMV may influence the outcome of CRC in an age-dependent manner and possibly has a dual oncomodulatory effect. How the virus interacts with the tumour microenvironment should be further studied.
- Colorectal cancer
- Human cytomegalovirus