Foersch, S., Lang-Schwarz, C., Eckstein, M., Geppert, C., Schmitt, M., Konukiewitz, B., Groll, T., Schicktanz, F., Engel, J., Gleitsmann, M., Westhoff, C.C., Frickel, N., Litmeyer, A.S., Grass, A., Jank, P., Lange, S., Tschurtschenthaler, M., Wilhelm, D., Roth, W., Vieth, M., Denkert, C., Nagtegaal, I., Weichert, W., Jesinghaus, M. (2022). Br J Cancer.
Background Pathological TNM staging (pTNM) is the strongest prognosticator in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) and the foundation of its post-operative clinical management. Tumours that invade pericolic/perirectal adipose tissue generally fall into the pT3 category without further subdivision. Methods The histological depth of invasion into the pericolic/perirectal fat was digitally and conventionally measured in a training cohort of 950 CRCs (Munich). We biostatistically calculated the optimal cut-off to stratify pT3 CRCs into novel pT3a (<= 3 mm)/pT3b (>3 mm) subgroups, which were then validated in two independent cohorts (447 CRCs, Bayreuth/542 CRCs, Mainz). Results Compared to pT3a tumours, pT3b CRCs showed significantly worse disease-specific survival, including in pN0 vs pN+ and colonic vs. rectal cancers (DSS: P < 0.001, respectively, pooled analysis of all cohorts). Furthermore, the pT3a/pT3b subclassification remained an independent predictor of survival in multivariate analyses (e.g. DSS: P < 0.001, hazard ratio: 4.41 for pT3b, pooled analysis of all cohorts). While pT2/pT3a CRCs showed similar survival characteristics, pT3b cancers remained a distinct subgroup with dismal survival. Discussion The delineation of pT3a/pT3b subcategories of CRC based on the histological depth of adipose tissue invasion adds valuable prognostic information to the current pT3 classification and implementation into current staging practices of CRC should be considered.