Nondestructive, multiplex three-dimensional mapping of immune infiltrates in core needle biopsy

Lab Invest. 2019 Sep;99(9):1400-1413. doi: 10.1038/s41374-018-0156-y. Epub 2018 Nov 6.


Enumeration of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in H&E stained tissue sections has demonstrated limited value in predicting immune responses to cancer immunotherapy, likely reflecting the diversity of cell types and immune activation states among tumor infiltrates. Multiparametric flow cytometry enables robust phenotypic and functional analysis to distinguish suppression from activation, but tissue dissociation eliminates spatial context. Multiplex methods for immunohistochemistry (IHC) are emerging, but these interrogate only a single tissue section at a time. Here, we report transparent tissue tomography (T3) as a tool for three-dimensional (3D) imaging cytometry in the complex architecture of the tumor microenvironment, demonstrating multiplexed immunofluorescent analysis in core needle biopsies. Using T3 imaging, image processing and machine learning to map CD3+CD8+ cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) in whole core needle biopsies from Her2+ murine mammary tumors and human head and neck surgical specimens revealed marked inhomogeneity within single needle cores, confirmed by serial section IHC. Applying T3 imaging cytometry, we discovered a strong spatial correlation between CD3+CD8+ CTLs and microvasculature in the EGFR+ parenchyma, revealing significant differences among head and neck cancer patients. These results show that T3 offers simple and rapid access to three-dimensional and quantitative maps of the tumor microenvironment and immune infiltrate, offering a new diagnostic tool for personalized cancer immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Biopsy, Large-Core Needle / methods*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / immunology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Cytometry / methods
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / cytology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / diagnostic imaging
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / immunology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / pathology
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*