Two seminal studies from McGill University, investigating immune landscapes of lung and brain tumours, were published today in Nature. This work was led by Logan Walsh, Daniela Quail and Peter Siegel, researchers at the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute and Philippe Joubert from Université Laval. The studies used innovative highly multiplexed imaging to create sophisticated immune atlases of lung and brain tumours and demonstrate how big data and artificial intelligence are the future of cancer research and clinical care.

Single-cell spatial landscapes of the lung tumour immune microenvironment

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Quebec and Canada, killing more individuals than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

In a recent collaborative study, researchers at McGill University’s Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute (GCI), Université Laval’s Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (IUCPQ) and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) profiled the cellular composition and spatial organization of the tumour immune microenvironment in over 475 lung cancer patient tumours using highly multiplex imaging technology.

“Our study is an example of how technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), can help us improve clinical decision-making for cancer patients. We demonstrate that AI can pinpoint which patients are likely to recur after surgery so we can not only identify who needs additional treatment, but importantly, who no longer requires therapy, to avoid unnecessary side effects,” says Logan Walsh, Ph.D., Professor at the GCI and Department of Human Genetics.

“The predictive value of the tool we developed is about 95%. This means that from a sample of only 1 mm2 of tumour, we can predict with high certainty a patient’s risk of recurrence. Currently, in the clinical setting, we do not have any predictive tool that is as effective,” adds Philippe Joubert, MD, Ph.D, thoracic pathologist at IUCPQ.

Samples were obtained from the IUCPQ Biobank (Quebec Respiratory Health Research Network) and Thoracic Oncology Clinical Database and Biobank (RI-MUHC). The availability of these unique resources is possible thanks to the generosity of patients who agree to provide their tissue for research purposes.

Single-cell spatial immune landscape of primary and metastatic brain tumours

Brain tumours are among the most fatal and rapidly progressing cancers, and survival beyond two years is rare.

Immune cells are known to control the behaviour of cancer and its ability to respond to therapies. But the positioning of immune cells and their interactions within larger cellular networks hold valuable information about how a tumour might evolve to affect prognosis.

“Our study dissects the positional architecture of immune cells within the brain tumour niche and identifies a rare subset of immune cells, macrophages, that have a surprising relationship with long-term survival. Our work highlights opportunities for new immune-based therapies for brain tumours, where current therapy options are limited and prognosis is extremely poor,” says Daniela Quail, Ph.D., Professor at the GCI and Department of Physiology.

“Our discoveries also offer unique insights into how the spatial organization of immune cells within primary brain tumours, which originate in the brain, differ from brain metastases that originate from sites outside the brain. Although these two types of brain tumours grow in the same environment, they display distinct immune landscapes that could signify differential response to immunotherapy,” adds Peter Siegel, Ph.D., Professor at the GCI and Department of Medicine.

Both studies are a testament to the strength of the GCI’s clinical network, with seminal contributions by McGill surgeons and pathologists, including Drs. Marie-Christine Guiot and Kevin Petrecca at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Drs. Jonathan Spicer, Pierre-Olivier Fiset and Sophie Camilleri Broët at the RI-MUHC.

About the studies:

Read the publications in Nature



The authors gratefully acknowledge technical support from the GCI Single Cell and Imaging Mass Cytometry Platform (SCIMAP) and Histology Core Facility, and funding from the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative (BTFC), the Rosalind Goodman Chair in Lung Cancer Research, the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (Mi4), and others that were gratefully acknowledged in each study.

About the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute

The Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute, affiliated with McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, is a recognized world-class research Institute contributing to innovative developments in discovery, treatment and ultimately the cure for cancer. Our scientists and clinician scientists are tackling the most challenging problems in cancer research through a multidisciplinary approach, supported by world-leading Innovation Platforms and a dedicated staff of research and administrative professionals.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,000 international students making up 30% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

Image: Collage made from: Fig. 1: IMC defines the spatial landscape of LUAD.

Sorin, M., Rezanejad, M., Karimi, E. et al. Single-cell spatial landscapes of the lung tumour immune microenvironment. Nature (2023).

Fig. 4: MPO+ macrophages are enriched in LTS tumours and are associated with enhanced cytotoxic functions.

Karimi, E., Yu, M.W., Maritan, S.M. et al. Single-cell spatial immune landscapes of primary and metastatic brain tumours. Nature (2023).

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