Background: Tumour budding (TB) refers to loss of tumour cohesiveness and is defined as isolated cells or a cell cluster of up to four tumour cells at the microscopic analysis. The International Tumour Budding Consensus Conference (ITBCC) in 2016 proposed a scoring system to standardise the pathology evaluation of TB in colorectal cancer (CRC) as high (H), intermediate (I) and low (L) TB.
Objective: To evaluate the recurrence-free survival (RFS) of stage II CRC patients as per the ITBCC 2016 classification and associations between TB and clinical pathological features.
Methods: Cases of stage II CRC undergoing surgery with available tumour tissue underwent central pathology review for TB. Prognostic factors, retrospectively retrieved from electronic medical charts, were evaluated in univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses for RFS (primary end point).
Results: Among 137 patients included, L-TB was observed in 107 (78.1%), I-TB in 21 (15.3%) and H-TB in 9 (6.6%). In a median follow-up of 69 months, the median RFS was 134 months, with 14 patients (10.2%) presenting with tumour recurrence: 10 (9.3%) with L-TB, 2 (9.5%) with I-TB and 2 (22.2%) with H-TB. Perineural invasion was more commonly seen in the H-TB group. In multivariate analysis, TB (H and I versus L; HR = 2.6; p = 0.059) and not receiving adjuvant chemotherapy (HR 3.7; p = 0.020) were independently associated with RFS. Adjuvant chemotherapy was associated longer RFS (HR = 3.7; p = 0.022).
Conclusion: In this series of Western patients, TB grade was associated with perineural invasion and increased risk of disease relapse.