Spatial interplay of tissue hypoxia and T-cell regulation in ductal carcinoma in situ.
Hypoxia promotes aggressive tumor phenotypes and mediates the recruitment of suppressive T cells in invasive breast carcinomas. We investigated the role of hypoxia in relation to T-cell regulation in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). We designed a deep learning system tailored for the tissue architecture complexity of DCIS, and compared pure DCIS cases with the synchronous DCIS and invasive components within invasive ductal carcinoma cases. Single-cell classification was applied in tandem with a new method for DCIS ductal segmentation in dual-stained CA9 and FOXP3, whole-tumor section digital pathology images. Pure DCIS typically has an intermediate level of colocalization of FOXP3+ and CA9+ cells, but in invasive carcinoma cases, the FOXP3+ (T-regulatory) cells may have relocated from the DCIS and into the invasive parts of the tumor, leading to high levels of colocalization in the invasive parts but low levels in the synchronous DCIS component. This may be due to invasive, hypoxic tumors evolving to recruit T-regulatory cells in order to evade immune predation. Our data support the notion that hypoxia promotes immune tolerance through recruitment of T-regulatory cells, and furthermore indicate a spatial pattern of relocalization of T-regulatory cells from DCIS to hypoxic tumor cells. Spatial colocalization of hypoxic and T-regulatory cells may be a key event and useful marker of DCIS progression.