The Tumor Immune Landscape and Architecture of Tertiary Lymphoid Structures in Urothelial Cancer

Nick van Dijk, Alberto Gil-Jimenez, Karina Silina, Maurits L. van Montfoort, Sarah Einerhand, Lars Jonkman, Charlotte S. Voskuilen, Dennis Peters, Joyce Sanders, Yoni Lubeck, Annegien Broeks, Erik Hooijberg, Daniel J. Vis, Maries van den Broek, Lodewyk F. A. Wessels, Bas W. G. van Rhijn, Michiel S. van der Heijden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Candidate immune biomarkers have been proposed for predicting response to immunotherapy in urothelial cancer (UC). Yet, these biomarkers are imperfect and lack predictive power. A comprehensive overview of the tumor immune contexture, including Tertiary Lymphoid structures (TLS), is needed to better understand the immunotherapy response in UC. We analyzed tumor sections by quantitative multiplex immunofluorescence to characterize immune cell subsets in various tumor compartments in tumors without pretreatment and tumors exposed to preoperative anti-PD1/CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitors (NABUCCO trial). Pronounced immune cell presence was found in UC invasive margins compared to tumor and stroma regions. CD8+PD1+ T-cells were present in UC, particularly following immunotherapy. The cellular composition of TLS was assessed by multiplex immunofluorescence (CD3, CD8, FoxP3, CD68, CD20, PanCK, DAPI) to explore specific TLS clusters based on varying immune subset densities. Using a k-means clustering algorithm, we found five distinct cellular composition clusters. Tumors unresponsive to anti-PD-1/CTLA-4 immunotherapy showed enrichment of a FoxP3+ T-cell-low TLS cluster after treatment. Additionally, cluster 5 (macrophage low) TLS were significantly higher after pre-operative immunotherapy, compared to untreated tumors. We also compared the immune cell composition and maturation stages between superficial (submucosal) and deeper TLS, revealing that superficial TLS had more pronounced T-helper cells and enrichment of early TLS than TLS located in deeper tissue. Furthermore, superficial TLS displayed a lower fraction of secondary follicle like TLS than deeper TLS. Taken together, our results provide a detailed quantitative overview of the tumor immune landscape in UC, which can provide a basis for further studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number793964
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021

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