The Radiosensitivity Index Gene Signature Identifies Distinct Tumor Immune Microenvironment Characteristics Associated With Susceptibility to Radiation Therapy

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2022 Jul 1;113(3):635-647. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2022.03.006. Epub 2022 Mar 12.


Purpose: Radiation therapy (RT) is a mainstay of cancer care, and accumulating evidence suggests the potential for synergism with components of the immune response. However, few data describe the tumor immune contexture in relation to RT sensitivity. To address this challenge, we used the radiation sensitivity index (RSI) gene signature to estimate the RT sensitivity of >10,000 primary tumors and characterized their immune microenvironments in relation to the RSI.

Methods and materials: We analyzed gene expression profiles of 10,469 primary tumors (31 types) within a prospective tissue collection protocol. The RT sensitivity of each tumor was estimated by the RSI and respective distributions were characterized. The tumor biology measured by the RSI was evaluated by differentially expressed genes combined with single sample gene set enrichment analysis. Differences in the expression of immune regulatory molecules were assessed and deconvolution algorithms were used to estimate immune cell infiltrates in relation to the RSI. A subset (n = 2368) of tumors underwent DNA sequencing for mutational frequency characterization.

Results: We identified a wide range of RSI values within and across various tumor types, with several demonstrating nonunimodal distributions (eg, colon, renal, lung, prostate, esophagus, pancreas, and PAM50 breast subtypes; P < .05). Across all tumor types, stratifying RSI at a tumor type-specific median identified 7148 differentially expressed genes, of which 146 were coordinate in direction. Network topology analysis demonstrates RSI measures a coordinated STAT1, IRF1, and CCL4/MIP-1β transcriptional network. Tumors with an estimated high sensitivity to RT demonstrated distinct enrichment of interferon-associated signaling pathways and immune cell infiltrates (eg, CD8+ T cells, activated natural killer cells, M1-macrophages; q < 0.05), which was in the context of diverse expression patterns of various immunoregulatory molecules.

Conclusions: This analysis describes the immune microenvironments of patient tumors in relation to the RSI gene expression signature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Prognosis
  • Radiation Tolerance / genetics
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor