MRI of tumor T cell infiltration in response to checkpoint inhibitor therapy.
BACKGROUND: Immune checkpoint inhibitors, the most widespread class of immunotherapies, have demonstrated unique response patterns that are not always adequately captured by traditional response criteria such as the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors or even immune-specific response criteria. These response metrics rely on monitoring tumor growth, but an increase in tumor size and/or appearance after starting immunotherapy does not always represent tumor progression, but also can be a result of T cell infiltration and thus positive treatment response. Therefore, non-invasive and longitudinal monitoring of T cell infiltration are needed to assess the effects of immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors. Here, we proposed an innovative concept that a sufficiently large influx of tumor infiltrating T cells, which have a smaller diameter than cancer cells, will change the diameter distribution and decrease the average size of cells within a volume to a degree that can be quantified by non-invasive MRI. METHODS: We validated our hypothesis by studying tumor response to combination immune-checkpoint blockade (ICB) of anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA4 in a mouse model of colon adenocarcinoma (MC38). The response was monitored longitudinally using Imaging Microstructural Parameters Using Limited Spectrally Edited Diffusion (IMPULSED), a diffusion MRI-based method which has been previously shown to non-invasively map changes in intracellular structure and cell sizes with the spatial resolution of MRI, in cell cultures and in animal models. Tumors were collected for immunohistochemical and flow cytometry analyzes immediately after the last imaging session. RESULTS: Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that increased T cell infiltration of the tumors results in a decrease in mean cell size (eg, a 10% increase of CD3+ T cell fraction results a ~1 µm decrease in the mean cell size). IMPULSED showed that the ICB responders, mice with tumor volumes were less than 250 mm3 or had tumors with stable or decreased volumes, had significantly smaller mean cell sizes than both Control IgG-treated tumors and ICB non-responder tumors. CONCLUSIONS: IMPULSED-derived cell size could potentially serve as an imaging marker for differentiating responsive and non-responsive tumors after checkpoint inhibitor therapies, a current clinical challenge that is not solved by simply monitoring tumor growth.
Jiang, X; Dudzinski, S; Beckermann, KE; Young, K; McKinley, E; J McIntyre, O; Rathmell, JC; Xu, J; Gore, JC
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