Pan-cancer adaptive immune resistance as defined by the Tumor Inflammation Signature (TIS): results from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)

J Immunother Cancer. 2018 Jun 22;6(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s40425-018-0367-1.


The Tumor Inflammation Signature (TIS) is an investigational use only (IUO) 18-gene signature that measures a pre-existing but suppressed adaptive immune response within tumors. The TIS has been shown to enrich for patients who respond to the anti-PD1 agent pembrolizumab. To explore this immune phenotype within and across tumor types, we applied the TIS algorithm to over 9000 tumor gene expression profiles downloaded from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). As expected based on prior evidence, tumors with known clinical sensitivity to anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) blockade had higher average TIS scores. Furthermore, TIS scores were more variable within than between tumor types, and within each tumor type a subset of patients with elevated scores was identifiable although with different prevalence associated with each tumor type, the latter consistent with the observed clinical responsiveness to anti PD-1 blockade. Notably, TIS scores only minimally correlated with mutation load in most tumors and ranking tumors by median TIS score showed differing association to clinical sensitivity to PD-1/PD-1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) blockade than ranking of the same tumors by mutation load. The expression patterns of the TIS algorithm genes were conserved across tumor types yet appeared to be minimally prognostic in most cancers, consistent with the TIS score serving as a pan-cancer measurement of the inflamed tumor phenotype. Characterization of the prevalence and variability of TIS will lead to increased understanding of the immune status of untreated tumors and may lead to improved indication selection for testing immunotherapy agents.

Keywords: Checkpoint inhibition; Gene signature; The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA); Tumor inflammation signature (TIS).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome, Human
  • Genomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Escape*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor