With the exception of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphomas, which are thought to derive from follicular helper T cells, little is known about the cell of origin for the most common peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), PTCL-unspecified (PTCL-U). Following appropriate antigenic stimulation, naïve CD4+ T helper (TH) cells differentiate into effector cells that secrete TH cytokines under the transcriptional regulation of subset-specific transcription factors.
PTCL-U patients (n=53) from a single institution were retrospectively identified and immunohistochemical analysis of Foxp3, T-bet and GATA-3 expression performed on diagnostic biopsy specimens. Immunohistochemical staining was reviewed in a blinded fashion by a hematopathologist and all specimens with greater than 10% staining were scored as positive. Transcription factor expression was correlated with patient characteristics and clinical outcomes.
GATA-3 expression was observed in 22 (42%) patients, T-bet expression in 17 (32%) patients and Foxp3 expression in 4 (7%) patients. In order to determine the prognostic significance of GATA-3 or T-bet expression, overall survival was compared between patients with GATA-3 (or T-bet) positive or negative tumors. The median overall survival (OS) was 2 years (95% confidence interval 0.7–12.8 years) for patients with GATA-3 negative tumors, compared with a median OS of 0.9 years (95% confidence interval 0.5–1.2 years, p=0.02) for GATA-3 positive cases. The median overall survival was 1.6 years (95% confidence interval 1.0–6.8 years) for patients with T-bet negative tumors, compared with a median overall survival of 0.7 years (95% confidence interval 0.3–0.9 years, p=0.005) for T-bet positive cases. As a subset of tumors coexpressed GATA-3 and T-bet, both of which are adverse prognostic factors, we examined survival outcomes between those patients with tumors expressing either GATA-3 or T-bet (n=29) and those with tumors which do not express either transcription factor (n=24). The median OS and PFS observed for patients with positive tumors was 0.7 years (95% confidence interval 0.6–1.1 years) and 0.7 years (95% confidence interval 0.5–0.9 years), respectively. In contrast, patients with GATA-3/T-bet negative tumors experienced markedly superior survival, with a median OS and PFS of 3.8 years (95% confidence interval 1.6–12.9 years, p<0.0001) and 2.0 years (95% confidence interval 1.5–12.8 years, p<0.0001), respectively. Four-year estimates of overall and progression-free survival were less than 10% for patients with GATA-3/T-bet positive tumors, whereas 4-year OS and PFS were 49% and 32%, respectively, for those with negative tumors. Both GATA-3 and T-bet expression were associated with advanced age and tumor stage. Therefore, we analyzed GATA-3/T-bet expression as a prognostic factor for survival on both univariate and multivariate analyses, adjusting for pertinent risk factors, including patient age and tumor stage. On univariate analysis, GATA-3/T-bet expression was associated with inferior overall survival (hazard ratio 4.4, 95% confidence interval 2.1–10.4, p<0.0001). Patient age (>60 years), poor performance status (ECOG performance status >1), and stage III/IV disease were also associated with inferior overall survival on univariate analysis. However, when adjusting for these latter adverse prognostic factors on multivariate analysis, GATA-3/T-bet expression remained an independent predictor of poor overall survival in PTCL-U (adjusted hazard ratio 3.2, 95% confidence interval 1.4–8.5, p=0.008). Similarly, when adjusting only for high-risk features (>2 adverse prognostic factors), as defined by the Prognostic Index in PTCL-U (PIT), GATA-3/T-bet expression remained an independent predictor of inferior overall survival on multivariate analysis (adjusted hazard ratio 4.9, 95% confidence interval 2.2–11.5, p<0.0001).
GATA-3 and T-bet expression identify subsets of high-risk PTCL-U patients who may benefit from alternative treatment strategies.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.