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posted on 19.01.2021, 04:14 by Arutha Kulasinghe, Touraj Taheri, Ken O’Byrne, Brett G. M. Hughes, Liz Kenny, Chamindie Punyadeera
Background

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have shown durable and long-term benefits in a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients. To identify patient-responders from non-responders, biomarkers are needed which are predictive of outcome to ICI therapy. Cues in the tumor microenvironment (TME) have been informative in understanding the tumor-immune contexture.

Methods

In this preliminary study, the NanoString GeoMx™ Digital Spatial Profiling (DSP) technology was used to determine the immune marker and compartment specific measurements in a cohort of HNSCC tumors from patients receiving ICI therapy.

Results

Our data revealed that markers involved with immune cell infiltration (CD8 T-cells) were not predictive of outcome to ICI therapy. Rather, a number of immune cell types and protein markers (CD4, CD68, CD45, CD44, CD66b) were found to correlate with progressive disease. Cross platform comparison with the Opal Vectra (Perkin Elmer) for a number of markers across similar regions of interest demonstrated concordance for pan-cytokeratin, CD8, and PD-L1.

Conclusion

This study, to our knowledge, represents the first digital spatial analysis of HNSCC tumors. A larger cohort of HNSCC will be required to orthogonally validate the findings.

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