The tumor microenvironment, especially infiltrating T lymphocytes and inflammatory molecules, is believed to be highly relevant to the tumor’s sensitivity to cancer checkpoint blockade therapy. At the same time, the exact markers that are predictive of response for each therapeutic agent are still the subject of active investigations. To address the need for better understanding of the effect of different T cell subsets, antigen presentation, and tumor killing, gene expression profiling presents an attractive means to simultaneously evaluate the tumor microenvironment and cancer cells. In this study we compare the results and performance of the nCounter PanCancer Immune Profiling Panel and the Oncomine Immune Response Research Assay, both of which are designed to measure the expression of genes indicative of an immune response and potential immune-editing activities by tumor cells. The nCounter panel detects gene expression by counting unique probes that hybridize target mRNA, while the Oncomine panel employs NGS to sequence and count reads derived from the targets. While both panels are designed to work with FFPE samples, The nCounter panel expects 100 ng of unamplified RNA, while the Oncomine panel requires only 10 ng total RNA with its AmpliSeq technology. The two panels share 254 common genes, which constitute the basis for this comparison. Across 12 cancer samples (breast, H&N, melanoma, NSCLC, and RCC), results show that the Oncomine panel offers 20% higher dynamic range, thereby providing more robust readouts about the differences among samples. More importantly, with virtually no background noise, the underlying NGS technology provides an absolute zero readout for non-expressing genes which significantly improves the sensitivity for detecting low expressing genes, as their presence can be confirmed by as few as two reads. The two technologies show moderate correlation (R ~ 0.7), with the Oncomine panel more strongly correlating with qPCR (R ~ 0.9). Finally, when clustered using all genes on the panel, only the Oncomine panel provides clear stratification of cancer types, thus allowing the panel to be used for tissue type confirmation in addition to evaluating the immune response.

Citation Format: Ann Mongan, Warren Tom, Janice Au-Young, Aleksandr Pankov, Gauri Ganpule, Fiona Hyland. Measuring gene expression at the tumor microenvironment: A comparison between nCounter PanCancer Immune Profiling Panel and Oncomine Immune Response Research Assay [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 5363. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-5363