Although genomic analyses of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) patients have revealed targetable pathways that have led to FDA-approved therapies, the responses to these therapies remain limited. The significant success of immune checkpoint inhibitors and anti-angiogenic agents suggest that ccRCC has a unique tumor microenvironment composition and tumor behavior that influences therapeutic response. Here, we describe an integrated proteogenomic method to study intratumoral heterogeneity (ITH), microenvironment composition, tumor spatial behavior, and cellular communities in ccRCC.

A unique AI-based segmentation platform for multiplex immunofluorescence (MxIF) was developed to analyze an entire tissue slide at single-cell resolution, including 70 regions of interest per slide, providing significant information regarding spatial architecture. Primary ccRCC tumors collected from patients were biopsied at multiple locations and subjected to MxIF (20 markers, n = 10 sites, 4 pts, ~1,000,000 cells), RNA-seq (n = 8 sites, 3 pts) and CyTOF (n = 21 sites, 6 pts), allowing integrated multi-omics analysis at the single-cell level.

Integrated analysis showed that genomic intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) was remarkably similar across all regions biopsied from the same patient, and the cellular populations present within each region of the same patient were alike. However, some cell types such as TCM CD4 T cells and Tem CD38 and Tem PD1+CD69+CD38- CD8 T cells, and CD163+PDL1+LAMP+ showed great inter-patient differences in the proportion of these cell populations. Notably, 14 CD4 T cell, 13 CD8 T cell, and 10 macrophage subpopulations were identified across the ccRCC tumors. Moreover, 14 microenvironment proximity communities based on MxIF imaging analysis of ~1 million cells were identified. The presence of B cell- and T cell-enriched communities (e.g., CD8 T cell enrichment and T-cell enrichment at the tumor border) correlated with the expression of interferon-gamma, PD1, IL-6, IL-10, PD-L1, CXCL13, and others. Macrophage-enriched communities correlated with the expression of CXCL12 and PDGFRB. Finally, tertiary lymphoid structures within the “B cell-enriched” communities correlating with the expression of CXCL13 were found in two tumors collected from one patient, with subsequent validation via H&E staining. Further, B cell repertoire (BCR) analysis of RNA-seq of the tumors from this patient showed the presence of a large B cell clone in the tumors.

In conclusion, via MxIF, 14 distinct spatial microenvironment communities with unique cytokine expression patterns were identified in ccRCC. Uncovering the spatial behavior of tumors can lead to the development of effective therapies personalized for each patient based on microenvironment composition and architecture.

Citation Format: Natalia Miheecheva, Akshaya Ramachandran, Yang Lyu, Ekaterina Postovalova, Viktor Svekolkin, Ilia Galkin, Pavel Ovcharov, Diana Shamsutdinova, Vladimir Zyrin, Alexander Bagaev, Krystle Nomie, Felix Frenkel, Ravshan Ataullakhanov, James J. Hsieh. Integrated multiregional transcriptomic and multi-parameter single-cell imaging analysis of clear cell renal cell carcinoma elucidates diverse cellular communities present within the tumor microenvironment [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 2742.