Prognostic impact of activin subunit inhibin beta A in gastric and esophageal adenocarcinomas


  • J.J. Staudacher
  • A. Arnold
  • A.A. Kühl
  • M. Pötzsch
  • S. Daum
  • M. Winterfeld
  • E. Berg
  • M. Hummel
  • B. Rau
  • U. Stein
  • C. Treese


  • BMC Cancer


  • BMC Cancer 22 (1): 953


  • PURPOSE: Adenocarcinomas of the esophagus (AEG) and stomach (AS) are among the most common cancers worldwide. Novel markers for risk stratification and guiding treatment are strongly needed. Activin is a multi-functional cytokine with context specific pro- and anti-tumorigenic effects. We aimed to investigate the prognostic role of activin tumor protein expression in AEG/ASs. METHODS: Tissue from a retrospective cohort of 277 patients with AEG/AS treated primarily by surgery at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin was collected and analyzed by immunohistochemistry using a specific antibody to the activin homodimer inhibin beta A. Additionally, we evaluated T-cell infiltration and PD1 expression as well as expression of PD-L1 by immunohistochemistry as possible confounding factors. Clinico-pathologic data were collected and correlated with activin protein expression. RESULTS: Out of 277 tumor samples, 72 (26.0%) exhibited high activin subunit inhibin beta A protein expression. Higher expression was correlated with lower Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) stage and longer overall survival. Interestingly, activin subunit expression correlated with CD4(+) T-cell infiltration, and the correlation with higher overall survival was exclusively seen in tumors with high CD4(+) T-cell infiltration, pointing towards a role of activin in the tumor immune response in AEG/ASs. CONCLUSION: In our cohort of AEG/AS, higher activin subunit levels were correlated with longer overall survival, an effect exclusively seen in tumors with high CD4(+) cell infiltration. Further mechanistic research is warranted discerning the exact effect of this context specific cytokine.