Histological intratumoral heterogeneity in pretreatment esophageal cancer biopsies predicts survival benefit from neoadjuvant chemotherapy: results from the UK MRC OE02 trial

Naser Davarzani, Lindsay C Hewitt, Matthew D Hale, Veerle Melotte, Matthew Nankivell, Gordon G A Hutchins, David Cunningham, William H Allum, Ruth E Langley, Shahab Jolani, Heike I Grabsch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Despite the use of multimodal treatment, survival of esophageal cancer (EC) patients remains poor. One proposed explanation for the relatively poor response to cytotoxic chemotherapy is intratumor heterogeneity. The aim was to establish a statistical model to objectively measure intratumor heterogeneity of the proportion of tumor (IHPoT) and to use this newly developed method to measure IHPoT in the pretreatment biopsies from from EC patients recruited to the OE02 trial. A statistical mixed effect model (MEM) was established for estimating IHPoT based on variation in hematoxylin/eosin (HE) stained pretreatment biopsy pieces from the same individual in 218 OE02 trial patients (103 treated by chemotherapy and surgery (chemo+surgery); 115 patients treated by surgery alone). The relationship between IHPoT, prognosis, chemotherapy survival benefit, and clinicopathological variables was assessed. About 97 (44.5%) and 121 (55.5%) ECs showed high and low IHPoT, respectively. There was no significant difference in IHPoT between surgery (median [range], 0.1637 [0-3.17]) and chemo+surgery (median [range], 0.1692 [0-2.69]) patients (P = 0.43). Chemo+surgery patients with low IHPoT had a significantly longer survival than surgery patients (HR = 1.81, 95% CI: 1.20-2.75, P = 0.005). There was no survival difference between chemo+surgery and surgery patients with high IHPoT (HR = 1.15, 95% CI: 0.72-1.81, P = 0.566). This is the first study suggesting that IHPoT measured in the pretreatment biopsy can predict chemotherapy survival benefit in EC patients. IHPoT may represent a clinically useful biomarker for patient treatment stratification. Future studies should determine if pathologists can reliably estimate IHPoT.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdoaa058
Number of pages8
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number8
Early online date3 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • esophageal cancer
  • histological heterogeneity
  • neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • pretreatment biopsy
  • proportion of tumor

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