Fifty eight large bowel adenocarcinomas and 20 adenomas were studied immunohistochemically, using fresh frozen tissue sections, with regard to lymphocyte subpopulations (CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19, and CD20) in the inflammatory infiltrate and to expression of human leucocyte antigens (HLA-ABC, HLA-A2, and HLA-DR). The findings were related to differentiation and Duke's stage of carcinoma. The inflammatory infiltrate was found to have a phenotype that remained constant irrespective of the intensity of the inflammation. CD4 and CD3 positive cells predominated with fewer CD8 positive cells and a scanty diffuse CD19/20 positive cell population. CD19/20 follicular aggregates were common at the advancing margin of the carcinomas. There was no significant association with Duke's stage, differentiation or HLA status. HLA changes (ABC loss, A2 loss, and DR gain) were associated with differentiation, being more common and more extensive in poorly differentiated carcinomas. HLA-A2 loss was also associated with stage of progression of carcinoma. Inflammation associated with adenomas was found to have a similar phenotype to that associated with carcinomas. HLA changes in adenomas were uncommon, being seen in only one of our 20 cases.
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