Gynecologic oncology

Polymerase ε (POLE) ultra-mutation in uterine tumors correlates with T lymphocyte infiltration and increased resistance to platinum-based chemotherapy in vitro.

PMID 27894751


Up to 12% of all endometrial-carcinomas (EC) harbor DNA-polymerase-ε-(POLE) mutations. It is currently unknown whether the favorable prognosis of POLE-mutated EC is derived from their low metastatic capability, extraordinary number of somatic mutations thus imparting immunogenicity, or a high sensitivity to chemotherapy. Polymerase-chain-reaction-amplification and Sanger-sequencing were used to test for POLE exonuclease-domain-mutations (exons 9-14) 131 EC. Infiltration of CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes (TIL) and PD-1-expression in POLE-mutated vs POLE wild-type EC was studied by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and the correlations between survival and molecular features were investigated. Finally, primary POLE-mutated and POLE-wild-type EC cell lines were established and compared in-vitro for their sensitivity to chemotherapy. Eleven POLE-mutated EC (8.5%) were identified. POLE-mutated tumors were associated with improved progression-free-survival (P<0.05) and displayed increased numbers of CD4+ (44.5 vs 21.8; P=0.001) and CD8+ (32.8 vs 13.5; P<0.001) TILs when compared to wild-type POLE EC. PD-1 receptor was overexpressed in TILs from POLE-mutated vs wild-type-tumors (81% vs 28%; P<0.001). Primary POLE tumor cell lines were significantly more resistant to platinum-chemotherapy in-vitro when compared to POLE-wild-type tumors (P<0.004). POLE ultra-mutated EC are heavily infiltrated with CD4+/CD8+ TIL, overexpress PD-1 immune-check-point (i.e., features consistent with chronic antigen-exposure), and have a better prognosis when compared to other molecular subtypes of EC patients. POLE-mutated tumor-cell lines are resistant to platinum-chemotherapy in-vitro suggesting that the better prognosis of POLE-patients is not secondary to a higher sensitivity to chemotherapy but likely linked to enhanced immunogenicity.