Experimental Design: A 54-gene hypoxia-immune signature was constructed on the basis of literature review. Gene expression was analyzed in silico using the The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) HNC dataset (n = 275) and validated using two independent cohorts (n = 130 and 123). IHC was used to investigate the utility of a simplified protein signature. The spatial distribution of hypoxia and immune markers was examined using multiplex immunofluorescence staining.
Results: Unsupervised hierarchical clustering of TCGA dataset (development cohort) identified three patient subgroups with distinct hypoxia-immune phenotypes and survival profiles: hypoxialow/immunehigh, hypoxiahigh/immunelow, and mixed, with 5-year overall survival (OS) rates of 71%, 51%, and 49%, respectively (P = 0.0015). The prognostic relevance of the hypoxia-immune gene signature was replicated in two independent validation cohorts. Only PD-L1 and intratumoral CD3 protein expression were associated with improved OS on multivariate analysis. Hypoxialow/immunehigh and hypoxiahigh/immunelow tumors were overrepresented in “inflamed” and “immune-desert” microenvironmental profiles, respectively. Multiplex staining demonstrated an inverse correlation between CA-IX expression and prevalence of intratumoral CD3+ T cells (r = −0.5464; P = 0.0377), further corroborating the transcription-based classification.
Conclusions: We developed and validated a hypoxia-immune prognostic transcriptional classifier, which may have clinical application to guide the use of hypoxia modification and targeted immunotherapies for the treatment of HNC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research