Test identifies tumour-infiltrating cell densities as prognostic biomarkers across a pan-cancer cohort

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Published: 20 Apr 2023
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Dr James Lindsay - Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA

Dr James Lindsay speaks to ecancer about ImmunoPROFILE study. ImmunoPROFILE is a multiplexed immunofluorescence (MIF)-based assay coupled with machine-learning-based image analysis, to identify and quantify tumour cells, T cells (CD8), T-regulatory cells, exhausted cells and immunosuppressive tumour and immune cells (PD-L1). 

In this study the quantitative immune cell profiling test was applied to 2,023 cases across 27 tumour types collected prospectively over three years and analysed. 

The results from this study demonstrated that select immune cell densities are prognostic across cancer types and therapies. Dr Lindsay says that the study showed that quantification of multiple cell populations yields better prognostic power than single marker analyses. 

He concludes by discussing the future of this study.

Our study, called ImmunoPROFILE, was an institution-wide effort to implement a multiplex tissue imaging test where we prospectively capture immunophenotype data on patients across multiple cancer types and over a number of years. 

The study was designed for data to be collected in a prospective manner. So we had a certain number of cancer types that our test supported and we just looked for patients and tissue that came through the Brigham and Women Dana Farber biobanks that met the ICD-10 code. So it was an unselected cohort.

The two aims of the study, one was almost more logistical, is to demonstrate our ability to do this kind of multiplex tissue imaging at scale, so at an institutional scale. So, we were able to run this test capturing data for 20-25 patients a week over two years actually, so we were able to collect data on over 2,000 patients during the time period, which was exciting. So, we have demonstrated to ourselves and, when we publish this, to the community that this type of test is possible to run at scale and the results were highly concordant and all our quality control measures were high across the entire span of the study. 

Then on the biological side we have been able to identify that some of the biomarkers that we have been measuring, such as CD8 positive T-cells and PD-1 positive cells, are associated with increased overall survival in a pan-can context, so across different cancer types, across different treatments for the patients. So an increased level of CD8 and PD-1 cell density is associated with a higher overall survival. 

How might this study impact future research?

We think that this study is really foundational in that we are demonstrating that this type of tissue imaging that explores spatial biology is now possible to be run routinely at academic medical centres. We think that the biomarkers that can be derived from our platform and other similar platforms that are out there that other institutes are using are going to be able to help us answer more clinical questions than we can now. Current generation tissue biomarkers are things like PD-L1 positivity, so there’s this tumour proportion score is often used as a biomarker for response for if you’re going to respond for giving an immune checkpoint blockade. It works but it doesn’t work great in lots of patients. There’s just a lot more information you can get by exploring more sophisticated tissue biomarkers. I think this ImmunoPROFILE study and the platform we have created demonstrates that we can identify and have a platform that can be used for exploring these tissue biomarkers at scale.