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A Structured Tumor-Immune Microenvironment in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Revealed by Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging

Summary of work

Parker Institute investigator Sean Bendall, PhD, working with Michael Angelo and other colleagues at Stanford, used an emerging imaging technology called Multiplex Ion Beam Imaging by Time-of-Flight (MIBI-ToF) to gain deeper insights about triple negative breast cancer and its relationship with the local immune system. This cutting-edge imaging allowed the researchers to examine 36 proteins on immune cells and cancer cells in the tumor and surrounding tissue. Among the 41 patients, they found large differences in both the composition and total number of immune cells, with important findings on spatial relationships between immune cells and tumor cells that were predictive of survival. When immune cells and tumor cells were intermingled like grains of sand, researchers found that was associated with a more negative patient outcome with chemotherapy. When the tumor cells were separate – like clumps of tumor cells floating in an ocean of immune cells – that was associated with positive results for overall survival.

Why this is impactful to patients

“We’ve never been able to study triple negative breast cancer with this amount of resolution before, and in a way that preserves the spatial relationships between tumor and immune cells. It provides a much deeper understanding of the immunobiology of this tumor type and how that relates to patient survival,” said Samantha Bucktrout, PhD, director of research at the Parker Institute. “We have a significant amount to learn about this type of cancer, and this new data helped define it more and will open up additional paths to explore.”