Improved prognostication of glioblastoma beyond molecular subtyping by transcriptional profiling of the tumor microenvironment

Mol Oncol. 2020 May;14(5):1016-1027. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12668. Epub 2020 Apr 4.


Glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain cancer, is characterized by a high level of molecular heterogeneity, and infiltration by various immune and stromal cell populations. Important advances have been made in deciphering the microenvironment of GBMs, but its association with existing molecular subtypes and its potential prognostic role remain elusive. We have investigated the abundance of infiltrating immune and stromal cells in silico, from gene expression profiles. Two cohorts, including in-house normal brain and glioma samples (n = 70) and a large sample set from TCGA (n = 393), were combined into a single exploratory dataset. A third independent cohort (n = 124) was used for validation. Tumors were clustered based on their microenvironment infiltration profiles, and associations with known GBM molecular subtypes and patient outcome were tested a posteriori in a multivariable setting. We identified a subset of GBM samples with significantly higher abundances of most immune and stromal cell populations. This subset showed increased expression of both immune suppressor and immune effector genes compared to other GBMs and was enriched for the mesenchymal molecular subtype. Survival analyses suggested that tumor microenvironment infiltration pattern was an independent prognostic factor for GBM patients. Among all, patients with the mesenchymal subtype with low immune and stromal infiltration had the poorest survival. By combining molecular subtyping with gene expression measures of tumor infiltration, the present work contributes with improving prognostic models in GBM.

Keywords: glioblastoma; infiltration; microenvironment; stratification; survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / immunology
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Computer Simulation
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / immunology
  • Glioblastoma / genetics
  • Glioblastoma / immunology
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multigene Family
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Stromal Cells / cytology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*