Experimental design: We used gene expression data from a cohort of 460 patients (GSE39582) to perform a supervised classification analysis based on risk-of-relapse within BRAFMT stage II/III CC, to identify transcriptomic biomarkers associated with prognosis within this genotype. These findings were validated using immunohistochemistry in an independent population-based cohort of Stage II/III CC (n = 691), applying Cox proportional hazards analysis to determine associations with survival.
Results: High gene expression levels of Bcl-xL, a key regulator of apoptosis, were associated with increased risk of relapse, specifically in BRAFMT tumors (HR = 8.3, 95% CI 1.7–41.7), but not KRASMT/BRAFWT or KRASWT/BRAFWT tumors. High Bcl-xL protein expression in BRAFMT, untreated, stage II/III CC was confirmed to be associated with an increased risk of death in an independent cohort (HR = 12.13, 95% CI 2.49–59.13). Additionally, BRAFMT tumors with high levels of Bcl-xL protein expression appeared to benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy (P for interaction = 0.006), indicating the potential predictive value of Bcl-xL expression in this setting.
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that Bcl-xL gene and/or protein expression identifies a poor prognostic subgroup of BRAFMT stage II/III CC patients, who may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.