Immune landscape, evolution, hypoxia-mediated viral mimicry pathways and therapeutic potential in molecular subtypes of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours

Kate Young, Rita T. Lawlor, Chanthirika Ragulan, Yatish Patil, Andrea Mafficini, Samantha Bersani, Davide Antonello, David Mansfield, Sara Cingarlini, Luca Landoni, Antonio Pea, Claudio Luchini, Liliana Piredda, Nagarajan Kannan, Gift Nyamundanda, Daniel Morganstein, Ian Chau, Bertram Wiedenmann, Michele Milella, Alan MelcherDavid Cunningham, Naureen Starling, Aldo Scarpa, Anguraj Sadanandam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective A comprehensive analysis of the immune landscape of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs) was performed according to clinicopathological parameters and previously defined molecular subtypes to identify potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in this disease. Design Differential expression analysis of 600 immune-related genes was performed on 207 PanNET samples, comprising a training cohort (n=72) and two validation cohorts (n=135) from multiple transcriptome profiling platforms. Different immune-related and subtype-related phenotypes, cell types and pathways were investigated using different in silico methods and were further validated using spatial multiplex immunofluorescence. Results The study identified an immune signature of 132 genes segregating PanNETs (n=207) according to four previously defined molecular subtypes: metastasis-like primary (MLP)-1 and MLP-2, insulinoma-like and intermediate. The MLP-1 subtype (26%-31% samples across three cohorts) was strongly associated with elevated levels of immune-related genes, poor prognosis and a cascade of tumour evolutionary events: larger hypoxic and necroptotic tumours leading to increased damage-associated molecular patterns (viral mimicry), stimulator of interferon gene pathway, T cell-inflamed genes, immune checkpoint targets, and T cell-mediated and M1 macrophage-mediated immune escape mechanisms. Multiplex spatial profiling validated significantly increased macrophages in the MLP-1 subtype. Conclusion This study provides novel data on the immune microenvironment of PanNETs and identifies MLP-1 subtype as an immune-high phenotype featuring a broad and robust activation of immune-related genes. This study, with further refinement, paves the way for future precision immunotherapy studies in PanNETs to potentially select a subset of MLP-1 patients who may be more likely to respond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1904-1913
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • immune response
  • immunotherapy
  • macrophages
  • neuroendocrine tumors
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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