Researchers develop simple method to characterise immune cells in tumours

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Immune SystemDespite recent achievements in the development of cancer immunotherapies, only a small group of patients typically respond to them.

Predictive markers of disease course and response to immunotherapy are urgently needed.

To address this need, researchers at The Tisch Cancer Institute (TCI) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have developed a new method of analysing multiple tissue markers using only one slide of a tumour section to better understand immune response occurring locally.

Named MICSSS, for multiplexed immunohistochemical consecutive staining on a single slide, the new technique helps characterise human cells involved in immune responses at the tissue site, before and after treatment with immunotherapy.

The research, published today in the journal Science Immunology, may help define new biomarkers to predict patient outcome.

In cancer, having a measurable immune response at the tumour site has been associated with improved outcome of patients with various types of cancers.

blood cancer cell graphic_oncology news australiaRecent studies have shown that tumour-infiltrating immune cells consist of different subtypes with distinct functions, and that their frequency, localisation, and organisation in cancer tissues end up either promoting anti-tumour immunity or, in some cases, preventing it; both of these eventually affect the patient’s outcome.

However, a lack of methods to characterise the complex relationships between immune and cancer cells and the difficulty of obtaining enough tissue to do so with standard methods hampers the ability to study the mechanisms at play.

“Our goal was to get a better understanding of immunologic responses at the tumour site while addressing the need for high-dimensional analysis using as little tissue as possible,” said Sacha Gnjatic, PhD, Associate Professor of Immunology, Hematology, and Medical Oncology at TCI, who was the senior co-author of this study with Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, Professor of Oncological Sciences, Hematology, and Medical Oncology at TCI.

“We need more comprehensive analyses of the immune microenvironment of tumours, as part of our immune monitoring to inform treatment and predict outcomes for cancer patients.”

Immunity Against DiseasesLead author Romain Remark, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow working in the laboratories of Dr. Gnjatic and Dr. Merad, helped develop a new method to look at multiple tissue markers and detect expression of biological markers with just one tissue section slide.

Researchers applied the MICSSS technique to tumour tissue sections of melanoma and lung cancers.

This enabled views of co-expression of markers on the same cells while sparing material from tissues.

“The MICSSS technique helps us characterise the distribution of complex cell subsets in tumour tissues without cross-reactivity between staining cycles,” said Dr. Remark. “In contrast to other available methods, our approach is not as reliant on proprietary reagents or instruments and should be easier to adapt because it follows the same staining steps currently implemented throughout all pathology labs.”

If the MICSSS method is proven successful in mapping other tumour types (hepatocellular carcinoma, colorectal, breast, head and neck, or pancreatic cancers), the investigators believe it may be useful beyond just cancer.

blood test pipette_oncology news australiaIt offers the ability to reuse any slide from a tissue sample, up to 10 times, and to characterise multiple parameters with standard chromogen staining. Researchers have begun to apply MICSSS to characterise immune and tissue markers of diabetes, HIV-related kidney pathology, inflammatory bowel disease, and atherosclerosis.

“We hope to implement MICSSS as part of the Human Immune Monitoring Center at TCI to characterise the types of immune cells infiltrating various cancers and other disease for their density, localisation in the tissue, and diversity,” said Dr. Merad.
[hr] SourceScience Immunology

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