CD73 overexpression has been reported in several malignancies and is considered to be a novel immune checkpoint. However, the role and significance of CD73 in gastric cancer (GC) still remain obscure. We aim to investigate the role of CD73 expression in predicting prognosis, shaping immune contexture and guiding therapeutic strategy in GC.
The study enrolled four independent cohorts with a total of 902 patients with GC. CD73 expression and immune contexture were examined by immunohistochemistry, single-sample gene set enrichment analysis and flow cytometry. Clinical outcomes of patient subgroups were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox proportional hazard analysis. All statistical tests were two-sided.
CD73 was identified as an independent adverse prognostic factor for survival in GC. CD73 tumours showed a specific microenvironment with more CD8+ T cell infiltration, but these CD8+ T cells displayed a dysfunctional phenotype. Furthermore, the CD73 (NT5E) mRNA level was associated with the Cancer Genome Atlas molecular subtypes, and NT5E high tumours showed significant fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 activation and vascular endothelial growth factor and receptor enrichment. In addition, CD73 tumours indicated better chemotherapeutic responsiveness to fluorouracil yet a worse objective response rate to pembrolizumab in GC.
High CD73 expression indicated an immunoevasive contexture with CD8+ T cell dysfunction and represented an independent predictor for adverse clinical outcomes. As a potential immunotherapeutic target, CD73 could potentially be a novel biomarker for adjuvant chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapy. The crucial role of CD73 in the therapeutic landscape of GC needs further validation retrospectively and prospectively.

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