Quantitative spatial evaluation of tumor-immune interactions in the immunotherapy setting of metastatic melanoma lymph nodes

Rachel L.G. Maus, Alexey A. Leontovich, Raymond M. Moore, Zachary Fogarty, Ruifeng Guo, Tara M. Davidson, Burak Tekin, Chathu Atherton, Jill M. Schimke, Betty A. Dicke, Benjamin J. Chen, Svetomir N. Markovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Immune cell infiltration into the tumor microenvironment is generally associated with favorable clinical outcomes in solid tumors. However, the dynamic interplay among distinct immune cell subsets within the tumor-immune microenvironment as it relates to clinical responses to immunotherapy remains unresolved. In this study, we applied multiplex immunofluorescence (MxIF) to spatially characterize tumor-immune interactions within the metastatic melanoma lymph node. Methods: Pretreatment, whole lymph node biopsies were evaluated from 25 patients with regionally metastatic melanoma who underwent subsequent anti-PD1 therapy. Cyclic MxIF was applied to quantitatively and spatially assess expression of 45 pathologist-validated antibodies on a single tissue section. Pixel-based single cell segmentation and a supervised classifier approach resolved 10 distinct tumor, stromal and immune cell phenotypes and functional expression of PD1. Results: Single cell analysis across 416 pathologist-annotated tumor core regions of interest yielded 5.5 million cells for spatial evaluation. Cellular composition of tumor and immune cell subsets did not differ in the tumor core with regards to recurrence outcomes (p>0.05) however spatial patterns significantly differed in regional and paracrine neighborhood evaluations. Specifically, a regional community cluster comprised of primarily tumor and dendritic cells was enriched in patients that did not experience recurrence (p=0.009). By an independent spatial approach, cell-centric neighborhood analyses identified an enrichment for dendritic cells in cytotoxic T cell (CTL) and tumor cell-centric neighborhoods in the no recurrence patient response group (p<0.0001). Further evaluation of these neighborhoods identified an enrichment for CTL-dendritic cell interactions in patients that did not experience recurrence (p<0.0001) whereas CTL-macrophage interactions were more prevalent in CTL-centric neighborhoods of patients who experienced recurrence (p<0.0001). Discussion: Overall, this study offers a more comprehensive evaluation of immune infiltrates and spatial-immune signatures in the metastatic tumor-immune microenvironment as it informs recurrence risk following immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1024039
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Dec 5 2022


  • immunotherapy
  • melanoma
  • multiplex immunofluorescence
  • spatial biology
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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