Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is an emerging treatment modality for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which can effectively prime cytotoxic T cells by inducing immunogenic tumor cell death in preclinical models. SBRT effects on human PDAC have yet to be thoroughly investigated; therefore, this study aimed to characterize immunomodulation in the human PDAC tumor microenvironment following therapy.
Tumor samples were obtained from patients with resectable PDAC. Radiotherapy was delivered a median of 7 days prior to surgical resection, and sections were analyzed by multiplex IHC (mIHC), RNA sequencing, and T-cell receptor sequencing (TCR-seq).
Analysis of SBRT-treated tumor tissue indicated reduced tumor cell density and increased immunogenic cell death relative to untreated controls. Radiotherapy promoted collagen deposition; however, vasculature was unaffected and spatial analyses lacked evidence of T-cell sequestration. Conversely, SBRT resulted in fewer tertiary lymphoid structures and failed to lessen or reprogram abundant immune suppressor populations. Higher percentages of PD-1+ T cells were observed following SBRT, and a subset of tumors displayed more clonal T-cell repertoires.
These findings suggest that SBRT augmentation of antitumor immunogenicity may be dampened by an overabundance of refractory immunosuppressive populations, and support the continued development of SBRT/immunotherapy combination for human PDAC.