Machine learning links T cell function and spatial localization to neoadjuvant immunotherapy and clinical outcome in pancreatic cancer

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Machine learning links T cell function and spatial localization to neoadjuvant immunotherapy and clinical outcome in pancreatic cancer

Authors

Blise, K. E.; Sivagnanam, S.; Betts, C. B.; Betre, K.; Kirchberger, N.; Tate, B.; Furth, E. E.; Dias Costa, A.; Nowak, J. A.; Wolpin, B. M.; Vonderheide, R. H.; Goecks, J.; Coussens, L. M.; Byrne, K.

Abstract

Tumor molecular datasets are becoming increasingly complex, making it nearly impossible for humans alone to effectively analyze them. Here, we demonstrate the power of using machine learning to analyze a single-cell, spatial, and highly multiplexed proteomic dataset from human pancreatic cancer and reveal underlying biological mechanisms that may contribute to clinical outcome. A novel multiplex immunohistochemistry antibody panel was used to audit T cell functionality and spatial localization in resected tumors from treatment-naive patients with localized pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) compared to a second cohort of patients treated with neoadjuvant agonistic CD40 (CD40) monoclonal antibody therapy. In total, nearly 2.5 million cells from 306 tissue regions collected from 29 patients across both treatment cohorts were assayed, and more than 1,000 tumor microenvironment (TME) features were quantified. We then trained machine learning models to accurately predict CD40 treatment status and disease-free survival (DFS) following CD40 therapy based upon TME features. Through downstream interpretation of the machine learning models\' predictions, we found CD40 therapy to reduce canonical aspects of T cell exhaustion within the TME, as compared to treatment-naive TMEs. Using automated clustering approaches, we found improved DFS following CD40 therapy to correlate with the increased presence of CD44+ CD4+ Th1 cells located specifically within cellular spatial neighborhoods characterized by increased T cell proliferation, antigen-experience, and cytotoxicity in immune aggregates. Overall, our results demonstrate the utility of machine learning in molecular cancer immunology applications, highlight the impact of CD40 therapy on T cells within the TME, and identify potential candidate biomarkers of DFS for CD40-treated patients with PDAC.

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