3.1 Description of selected studies.
Figure 1 shows our literature search and screening strategy. After removing 613 duplicate studies, a total of 4739 studies were further explored for the title and abstract. A total of 4,657 studies were excluded due to non-conformity or irrelevant topics. 82 studies conducted further full-text evaluations, 35 of which were excluded due to lack of HR information on HR and 95%Cl, 16 studies were excluded because of detected IDO levels in the serum. Therefore, the final 31 studies included a total of 3939 patients for meta-analysis to analyze the association between IDO expression and prognosis in solid tumor patients [14-44].
The 31 studies included in this meta-analysis were derived from 10 countries, 6 studies originating from Europe (respectively from Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Germany), 18 from Asia (10 from China; and 8 from Japan), 2 from Africa (Tunisia), 3 from USA, 2 from Australia. All of these studies were published between 2006 and 2019. As for the cancer types, among the studies, esophageal cancer was the most common type of cancer (n=4), followed by endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, and vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (n=2). Other tumor types were involved in one study each. Since PFS, DFS and RFS are similar outcome endpoints, we used TTP to represent them in this meta-analysis. In these studies, 3 studies used polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to detect IDO expression in tumor tissues, while the other 28 studies used immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining to detect IDO expression. 28 datasets had information on OS, and 14 had information on TTP (PFS /DFS). According to NOS tool, we systematically evaluated the quality of the included studies, and all of these studies had high quality and the NOS scores were between 6-9 points. (Table 1).
3.2 Impact of IDO expression on cancer prognosis.
In the included studies, a total of 28 studies analyzed the association between IDO expression and OS. Of these 28 studies, 3 studies with HR <1 [38, 39, 41], and 18 studies with HR> 2[14-16, 18-22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 33, 34, 37, 42-44]. We performed a meta-analysis of 28 studies. Since I2 values was 81.1%, the random effects model was used to calculate the pooled HR and 95% CI. The combined analysis of 28 datasets indicated that compared with IDO negative/low expression, IDO positivity/high expression was highly correlated with poor prognosis in cancer patients (pooled HR 1.92, 95% CI 1.52–2.43, P<0.001) (Fig. 2). A total of 14 studies were used to assess the association between IDO expression and TTP. We calculated the pooled HR using a random effects model, because the heterogeneity test indicated an I2 value of 54.8% and a P value of 0.007. The results indicated that high expression of IDO was highly correlated with poor prognosis of TTP (pooled HR = 2.25, 95% CI 1.58–3.22, P<0.001) (Fig. 3).
3.3 Subgroup analysis.
Since the results from the meta-analysis indicated significant heterogeneity, we performed heterogeneity analysis in order to identify potential factors that may cause heterogeneity. We classified the included studies and performed heterogeneity analysis based on study location, detection method, sample size, study type, cancer type, age, follow-up periods and study quality. Subgroup analysis showed that the high expression of IDO was highly correlated with poor OS and TTP, but the heterogeneity was not significantly reduced according to different study locations, detection method, sample size grouping, average age and study quality. However, in a prospective study group, we found that high expression of IDO was highly correlated with poor OS prognosis (HR1.98, 95% CI 1.57-2.49, P<0.001) and there was no heterogeneity (I2 = 0%, P = 0.6) (Table 2). Subgroup analysis showed that there was no heterogeneity among bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer and esophageal cancer studies. Heterogeneity was also significantly reduced among studies of the same type of tumor, such as digestive system tumors and reproductive system tumors (Table 2). In addition, there was no significant heterogeneity (HR 3.41, 95% CI 2.41-4.83, P<0.001. I2 = 0%, P = 0.97) between studies with an average follow-up period of more than 45 months (Table 2).
3.4 Publication bias and sensitivity analysis.
Evaluation of publication bias between studies was done using Begg's funnel plot and Egger's test. The shape of the OS and TTP funnel plots were not significantly asymmetrical, and the Egger's test indicated OS (P=0.47) and TTP (P=0.89). These results suggested that there was no significant publication bias in the meta-analysis of IDO expression in relation to OS and TTP prognosis (Fig. 4). Sensitivity analysis refers to the removal of a study each time to analyze the impact of individual studies on the stability of meta-analysis results. Sensitivity analysis showed that no single study had a significant impact on the conclusions of this meta-analysis (Fig. 5).