BACKGROUND: Better biomarkers for assessing risk of relapse in stage I testicular germ cell tumor patients are needed, to complement classical histopathological variables. We aimed to assess the prognostic value of previously suggested biomarkers, related to proliferation (MIB-1 and TEX19) and to immune microenvironment (CXCL12, CXCR4, beta-catenin and MECA-79) in a surveillance cohort of stage I testicular germ cell tumor patients.
METHODS: A total of 70 patients were included. Survival analyses were performed, including Cox regression models.
RESULTS: Patients with vascular invasion and elevated human chorionic gonadotropin levels showed significantly poorer relapse-free survival in multivariable analysis (hazard ratio = 2.820, 95% confidence interval 1.257-6.328; hazard ratio = 3.025, 95% confidence interval 1.345-6.808). Patients with no vascular invasion but with MIB-1 staining in > 50% tumor cells showed significantly shorter relapse-free survival (p = 0.042). TEX19 nuclear immunoexpression was confirmed in spermatogonial cells, and weak cytoplasmic immunoexpression was depicted in 15/70 tumors, not significantly impacting survival. CXCL12 immunoexpression in tumor cells did not associate with relapse, but non-seminoma patients exhibiting vascular invasion and CXCL12-positive stromal/inflammatory cells showed significantly improved relapse-free survival (p = 0.015). Exclusively nuclear immunoexpression of CXCR4 associated with better relapse-free survival (p = 0.032), but not after adjusting for vascular invasion. Patients with higher beta-catenin scores showed a tendency for poorer relapse-free survival (p = 0.056). MECA-79 immunoexpression was absent.
CONCLUSIONS: The informative protein biomarkers (i.e., MIB-1, CXCL12, beta-catenin, and possibly CXCR4) may prove useful for risk-stratifying patients if validated in larger, multicentric and well-defined studies. Currently, classical histopathological features of testicular germ cell tumors remain key for relapse prediction.