Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) signature is inversely associated with T-cell infiltration in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Young Kwang Chae, Sangmin Chang, Taeyeong Ko, Jonathan Anker, Sarita Agte, Wade Iams, Wooyoung M Choi, Kyoungmin Lee, Marcelo Cruz
Scientific Reports 2018 February 13, 8 (1): 2918
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is able to drive metastasis during progression of multiple cancer types, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). As resistance to immunotherapy has been associated with EMT and immune exclusion in melanoma, it is important to understand alterations to T-cell infiltration and the tumor microenvironment during EMT in lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. We conducted an integrated analysis of the immune landscape in NSCLCs through EMT scores derived from a previously established 16 gene signature of canonical EMT markers. EMT was associated with exclusion of immune cells critical in the immune response to cancer, with significantly lower infiltration of CD4 T-cells in lung adenocarcinoma and CD4/CD8 T-cells in squamous cell carcinoma. EMT was also associated with increased expression of multiple immunosuppressive cytokines, including IL-10 and TGF-β. Furthermore, overexpression of targetable immune checkpoints, such as CTLA-4 and TIM-3 were associated with EMT in both NSCLCs. An association may exist between immune exclusion and EMT in NSCLC. Further investigation is merited as its mechanism is not completely understood and a better understanding of this association could lead to the development of biomarkers that could accurately predict response to immunotherapy.

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