Tumor microenvironmental determinants of high-risk DCIS progression

Res Sq [Preprint]. 2024 May 9:rs.3.rs-4126092. doi: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-4126092/v1.


Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) constitutes an array of morphologically recognized intraductal neoplasms in the mammary ductal tree defined by an increased risk for subsequent invasive carcinomas at or near the site of biopsy detection. However, only 15-45% of untreated DCIS cases progress to invasive cancer, so understanding mechanisms that prevent progression is key to avoid overtreatment and provides a basis for alternative therapies and prevention. This study was designed to characterize the tumor microenvironment and molecular profile of high-risk DCIS that grew to a large size but remained as DCIS. All patients had DCIS lesions >5cm in size with at least one additional high-risk feature: young age (<45 years), high nuclear grade, hormone receptor negativity, HER2 positivity, the presence of comedonecrosis, or a palpable mass. The tumor immune microenvironment was characterized using multiplex immunofluorescence to identify immune cells and their spatial relationships within the ducts and stroma. Gene copy number analysis and whole exome DNA sequencing identified the mutational burden and driver mutations, and quantitative whole-transcriptome/gene expression analyses were performed. There was no association between the percent of the DCIS genome characterized by copy number variants (CNAs) and recurrence events (DCIS or invasive). Mutations, especially missense mutations, in the breast cancer driver genes PIK3CA and TP53 were common in this high-risk DCIS cohort (47% of evaluated lesions). Tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) density was higher in DCIS lesions with TP53 mutations (p=0.0079) compared to wildtype lesions, but not in lesions with PIK3CA mutations (p=0.44). Immune infiltrates were negatively associated with hormone receptor status and positively associated with HER2 expression. High levels of CD3+CD8- T cells were associated with good outcomes with respect to any subsequent recurrence (DCIS or invasive cancer), whereas high levels of CD3+Foxp3+ Treg cells were associated with poor outcomes. Spatial proximity analyses of immune cells and tumor cells demonstrated that close proximity of T cells with tumor cells was associated with good outcomes with respect to any recurrence as well as invasive recurrences. Interestingly, we found that myoepithelial continuity (distance between myoepithelial cells surrounding the involved ducts) was significantly lower in DCIS lesions compared to normal tissue (p=0.0002) or to atypical ductal hyperplasia (p=0.011). Gene set enrichment analysis identified several immune pathways associated with low myoepithelial continuity and a low myoepithelial continuity score was associated with better outcomes, suggesting that gaps in the myoepithelial layer may allow access/interactions between immune infiltrates and tumor cells. Our study demonstrates the immune microenvironment of DCIS, in particular the spatial proximity of tumor cells and T cells, and myoepithelial continuity are important determinants for progression of disease.

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  • Preprint