Spatially Distinct Reprogramming of the Tumor Microenvironment Based On Tumor Invasion in Diffuse-Type Gastric Cancers

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Dec 1;27(23):6529-6542. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0792. Epub 2021 Aug 12.


Purpose: Histologic features of diffuse-type gastric cancer indicate that the tumor microenvironment (TME) may substantially impact tumor invasiveness. However, cellular components and molecular features associated with cancer invasiveness in the TME of diffuse-type gastric cancers are poorly understood.

Experimental design: We performed single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) using tissue samples from superficial and deep invasive layers of cancerous and paired normal tissues freshly harvested from five patients with diffuse-type gastric cancer. The scRNA-seq results were validated by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and duplex in situ hybridization (ISH) in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues.

Results: Seven major cell types were identified. Fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and myeloid cells were categorized as being enriched in the deep layers. Cell type-specific clustering further revealed that the superficial-to-deep layer transition is associated with enrichment in inflammatory endothelial cells and fibroblasts with upregulated CCL2 transcripts. IHC and duplex ISH revealed the distribution of the major cell types and CCL2-expressing endothelial cells and fibroblasts, indicating tumor invasion. Elevation of CCL2 levels along the superficial-to-deep layer axis revealed the immunosuppressive immune cell subtypes that may contribute to tumor cell aggressiveness in the deep invasive layers of diffuse-type gastric cancer. The analyses of public datasets revealed the high-level coexpression of stromal cell-specific genes and that CCL2 correlated with poor survival outcomes in patients with gastric cancer.

Conclusions: This study reveals the spatial reprogramming of the TME that may underlie invasive tumor potential in diffuse-type gastric cancer. This TME profiling across tumor layers suggests new targets, such as CCL2, that can modify the TME to inhibit tumor progression in diffuse-type gastric cancer.See related commentary by Huang and Brekken, p. 6284.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / genetics
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics