Single-cell analysis of human non-small cell lung cancer lesions refines tumor classification and patient stratification

Cancer Cell. 2021 Dec 13;39(12):1594-1609.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2021.10.009. Epub 2021 Nov 11.


Immunotherapy is a mainstay of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) management. While tumor mutational burden (TMB) correlates with response to immunotherapy, little is known about the relationship between the baseline immune response and tumor genotype. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we profiled 361,929 cells from 35 early-stage NSCLC lesions. We identified a cellular module consisting of PDCD1+CXCL13+ activated T cells, IgG+ plasma cells, and SPP1+ macrophages, referred to as the lung cancer activation module (LCAMhi). We confirmed LCAMhi enrichment in multiple NSCLC cohorts, and paired CITE-seq established an antibody panel to identify LCAMhi lesions. LCAM presence was found to be independent of overall immune cell content and correlated with TMB, cancer testis antigens, and TP53 mutations. High baseline LCAM scores correlated with enhanced NSCLC response to immunotherapy even in patients with above median TMB, suggesting that immune cell composition, while correlated with TMB, may be a nonredundant biomarker of response to immunotherapy.

Keywords: CITEseq; NSCLC; dendritic cells; high dimensional profiling; immunotherapy; macrophages; tumor cell atlas; tumor microenvironment; tumor mutational burden; tumor-associated myeloid cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*