Authors: Gartrell RD, Marks DK, Hart TD, Li G, Davari DR, Wu A, Blake Z, Lu Y, Askin KN, Monod A, Esancy C, Stack EC, Jia DT, Armenta PM, Fu Y, Izaki D, Taback B, Rabadan R, Kaufman HL, Drake CG, Horst BA, Saenger YM
Issue: Cancer Immunol Res. 2018 Apr;6(4):481-493
Novel methods to analyze the tumor microenvironment (TME) are urgently needed to stratify melanoma patients for adjuvant immunotherapy. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) analysis, by conventional pathologic methods, is predictive but is insufficiently precise for clinical application. Quantitative multiplex immunofluorescence (qmIF) allows for evaluation of the TME using multiparameter phenotyping, tissue segmentation, and quantitative spatial analysis (qSA). Given that CD3+CD8+ cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTLs) promote antitumor immunity, whereas CD68+ macrophages impair immunity, we hypothesized that quantification and spatial analysis of macrophages and CTLs would correlate with clinical outcome. We applied qmIF to 104 primary stage II to III melanoma tumors and found that CTLs were closer in proximity to activated (CD68+HLA-DR+) macrophages than nonactivated (CD68+HLA-DR-) macrophages (P < 0.0001). CTLs were further in proximity from proliferating SOX10+ melanoma cells than nonproliferating ones (P < 0.0001). In 64 patients with known cause of death, we found that high CTL and low macrophage density in the stroma (P = 0.0038 and P = 0.0006, respectively) correlated with disease-specific survival (DSS), but the correlation was less significant for CTL and macrophage density in the tumor (P = 0.0147 and P = 0.0426, respectively). DSS correlation was strongest for stromal HLA-DR+ CTLs (P = 0.0005). CTL distance to HLA-DR- macrophages associated with poor DSS (P = 0.0016), whereas distance to Ki67- tumor cells associated inversely with DSS (P = 0.0006). A low CTL/macrophage ratio in the stroma conferred a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.719 for death from melanoma and correlated with shortened overall survival (OS) in the complete 104 patient cohort by Cox analysis (P = 0.009) and merits further development as a biomarker for clinical application.