Podocalyxin-like protein as a predictive biomarker for benefit of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in resectable gastric and esophageal adenocarcinoma

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Background: We have previously shown that podocalyxin-like protein (PODXL) is a prognostic biomarker for poor survival in gastric and esophageal adenocarcinoma treated with surgery up-front. The aim of the present study was to assess PODXL expression in tumors from patients treated with neoadjuvant ± adjuvant (i.e. preoperative with or without postoperative) chemotherapy, with regard to histopathologic response, time to recurrence (TTR) and overall survival (OS). Methods: The neoadjuvant cohort encompasses 148 consecutive patients who received neoadjuvant ± adjuvant chemotherapy for resectable gastric or esophageal adenocarcinoma between 2008 and 2014. Immunohistochemical expression of PODXL was assessed in pre-neoadjuvant biopsies, resected primary tumors and lymph node metastases. Histopathologic response was evaluated using the Chirieac grading. TTR and OS were estimated using Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses. To investigate a potential predictive role for PODXL, the neoadjuvant cohort was pooled with the previously reported surgery up-front cohort. Results: The majority (> 95%) of the patients were treated with fluoropyrimidine- and oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy. Patients with high PODXL expression in their pre-neoadjuvant biopsies had a superior histopathologic response (notably 36% with no residual cancer cells) compared to those with negative or low PODXL expression, and were all recurrence-free at last follow-up. In the pooled cohort, no benefit of chemotherapy could be shown for PODXL negative cases, whereas PODXL positive (low or high) cases had a prolonged TTR and OS when treated with neoadjuvant ± adjuvant chemotherapy compared to surgery alone. The potential predictive role of PODXL was further strengthened for TTR in Cox regression analyses, especially for patients treated with neoadjuvant fluoropyrimidine and oxaliplatin for a minimum of 8 weeks, with a significant interaction term in both unadjusted (p = 0.006) and adjusted (p = 0.024) analyses. The interaction term was not statistically significant for overall survival. Conclusions: Patients with resectable gastric or esophageal adenocarcinoma with high PODXL expression in their diagnostic biopsies have an excellent prognosis when treated with neoadjuvant ± adjuvant fluoropyrimidine- and oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy. If the suggested predictive role of PODXL for benefit of chemotherapy can be confirmed, patients with PODXL negative tumors could be spared chemotherapy and treated with surgery alone.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma, Gastric adenocarcinoma, Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, PODXL
Original languageEnglish
Article number290
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch