Background Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is considered a low-risk disease of the breast. Current increases in its incidence have resulted in many women either being under- or over-treated due to our limited findings on independent prognostic and predictive biomarkers. The Van Nuys Prognostic Index, based on tumor size, margin status, grade and age, is one tool used in treatment decisions. Patients with a low score show no significant benefit from radiotherapy, in contrast to those with an intermediate score, while patients with high scores should be considered for mastectomy. In contrast, for invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) of the breast there is a strong consensus for the prognostic and predictive value of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). As very little is known about TIL in DCIS, the goal of this study is to fully characterize the immune infiltrate and compare it to IDC, examine differences in the balance between effector and regulatory subpopulations and potentially discover new biomarkers for risk stratification.

Material and Methods Fourteen patients were prospectively enrolled at the St. Luc hospital in Brussels, including 4 pure DCIS, 5 mixt DCIS and IDC, and 5 normal breast tissues. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections were stained with three fluorescent multiplex immunohistochemistry (mIHC) panels that combined antibodies to CD45, CD4, CD8, CD20, FOXP3, CD68, GZMB, PD-1, Ki67 and cytokeratin. InForm® Tissue Finder™ software and PhenoptrReports (Akoya Biosciences®) were employed for TIL quantification and spatial distribution. Freshly resected DCIS tissues were used to isolate tumor-infiltrating CD4 and CD8 T cells for single cell RNAseq analysis to determine the T cell clonotypes present (A. Devaux’s poster)

Results Our analyses reveal the DCIS stroma has a significant immune infiltrate dominated by CD4+ helper T cells and B cells (140 and 115 cells/mm2, respectively) followed by CD8+ cytotoxic T cells (72 cells/mm2), regulatory T cells (Treg) (27 cells/mm2) and to a lesser extent macrophages (23 cells/mm2). The immune pattern in DCIS is similar to IDC except there are fewer macrophages in the tumor areas and Treg increase in the stroma. Tumor areas are generally less infiltrated than the stroma but some DCIS cells are in direct contact with T cells and macrophages. Spatial distribution analysis within a radius of 30 μm confirms that Treg are in close proximity to the DCIS cells and in the proximity of CD4+ helper and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. Moreover, proliferating GZMB+ cells, mainly CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, were observed in direct contact with DCIS cells. Only one patient out of 4 had PD1+ TIL in the stroma. A comparison of pure and mixt DCIS reveals lower stromal infiltration by T and B cells in the former, which is also associated with an increase in macrophages. Finally, the abundance of stromal TIL was frequently organized in tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), composed by a B cell follicle surrounded by a T cell zone containing both CD4+ helper and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. TLS were characterized by the presence of proliferating B cells and PD1high T follicular helper cells. FOXP3+ and GZMB+ cells were also observed in the T cell zone.

Conclusions Examination of the immune infiltrate in DCIS shows an abundance of helper T cells, B cells and active cytotoxic T cells in association with stromal TLS. These observations reveal an active tumor immune microenvironment in DCIS and suggest that the immune response plays an active role in DCIS pathogenesis.

Citation Format: Soizic Garaud, Alix Devaux, Anais Boisson, Céline Naveaux, Pierre Coulie, Ahmad Awada, Karen Willard-Gallo. Characterization of the immune microenvironment in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Virtual Symposium; 2020 Dec 8-11; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PS17-21.