Visualization, Quantification, and Mapping of Immune Cell Populations in the Tumor Microenvironment

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

The immune landscape of the tumor microenvironment (TME) is a determining factor in cancer progression and response to therapy. Specifically, the density and the location of immune cells in the TME have important diagnostic and prognostic values. Multiomic profiling of the TME has exponentially increased our understanding of the numerous cellular and molecular networks regulating tumor initiation and progression. However, these techniques do not provide information about the spatial organization of cells or cell-cell interactions. Affordable, accessible, and easy to execute multiplexing techniques that allow spatial resolution of immune cells in tissue sections are needed to complement single cell-based high-throughput technologies. Here, we describe a strategy that integrates serial imaging, sequential labeling, and image alignment to generate virtual multiparameter slides of whole tissue sections. Virtual slides are subsequently analyzed in an automated fashion using user-defined protocols that enable identification, quantification, and mapping of cell populations of interest. The image analysis is done, in this case using the analysis modules Tissuealign, Author, and HISTOmap. We present an example where we applied this strategy successfully to one clinical specimen, maximizing the information that can be obtained from limited tissue samples and providing an unbiased view of the TME in the entire tissue section.