Front Immunol. 2023 Aug 11;14:1182581. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2023.1182581. eCollection 2023.
OBJECTIVE: To characterize and further compare the immune cell populations of the tumor microenvironment (TME) in both clear cell and papillary renal cell carcinoma (RCC) using heavy metal-labeled antibodies in a multiplexed imaging approach (imaging mass cytometry).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) baseline tumor tissues from metastatic patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and papillary renal cell carcinoma (pRCC) were retrospectively requisitioned from an institutional biorepository. Pretreated FFPE samples from 33 RCC patients (10 ccRCC, 23 pRCC) were accessioned and stained for imaging mass cytometry (IMC) analysis. Clinical characteristics were curated from an institutional RCC database. FFPE samples were prepared and stained with heavy metal-conjugated antibodies for IMC. An 11-marker panel of tumor stromal and immune markers was used to assess and quantify cellular relationships in TME compartments. To validate our time-of-flight (CyTOF) analysis, we cross-validated findings with The Cancer Genome Atlas Program (TCGA) analysis and utilized the CIBERSORTx tool to examine the abundance of main immune cell types in pRCC and ccRCC patients.
RESULTS: Patients with ccRCC had a longer median overall survival than did those with pRCC (67.7 vs 26.8 mo, respectively). Significant differences were identified in the proportion of CD4+ T cells between disease subtypes (ccRCC 14.1%, pRCC 7.0%, p<0.01). Further, the pRCC cohort had significantly more PanCK+ tumor cells than did the ccRCC cohort (24.3% vs 9.5%, respectively, p<0.01). There were no significant differences in macrophage composition (CD68+) between cohorts. Our results demonstrated a significant correlation between the CyTOF and TCGA analyses, specifically validating that ccRCC patients exhibit higher levels of CD4+ T cells (ccRCC 17.60%, pRCC 15.7%, p<0.01) and CD8+ T cells (ccRCC 17.83%, pRCC 11.15%, p<0.01). The limitation of our CyTOF analysis was the large proportion of cells that were deemed non-characterizable.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings emphasize the need to investigate the TME in distinct RCC histological subtypes. We observed a more immune infiltrative phenotype in the TME of the ccRCC cohort than in the pRCC cohort, where a tumor-rich phenotype was noted. As practical predictive biomarkers remain elusive across all subtypes of RCC, further studies are warranted to analyze the biomarker potential of such TME classifications.