Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer, with approximately 80% of cases related to Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) and tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase 2 (TDO2) are the key rate-limiting enzymes of the tryptophan-to-kynurenine metabolic pathway. With aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), an intracellular transcription factor, they play a role in escaping the immunosurveillance process in several cancers. IDO1/TDO2/AhR expression associated with the MCPyV status and prognosis in MCC was investigated. Samples included 24 MCPyV-positive MCCs, 12 MCPyV-negative MCCs with squamous cell carcinoma, and 7 MCPyV-negative pure MCCs. They were stained immunohistochemically with IDO1, TDO2, and AhR antibodies and analyzed. Higher IDO1 expression in MCC tumor cells was found in MCPyV-negative than in MCPyV-positive MCC (P <.001). The tumor microenvironment (TME) in MCPyV-negative MCC expressed higher TDO2 than in MCPyV-positive MCC (P <.001). Kaplan-Meier and log-rank tests showed that MCC with lower IDO1 expression in tumor cells and with lower TDO2 and AhR expressions in TME had better overall survival than otherwise (P =.043,.008, and.035, respectively); lower TDO2 expression in TME was also associated with longer disease-specific survival (P =.016). This suggests that IDO1, TDO2, and AhR express differentially in tumor cells or TME and play different roles in tumorigenesis between MCPyV-positive and MCPyV-negative MCC that may affect the MCC biology. Evaluating IDO1/TDO2/AhR expression is important for selecting the most likely patients with MCC for immunotherapies targeting the IDO1/TDO2-AhR pathway.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine