Research Papers:

Robust detection of immune transcripts in FFPE samples using targeted RNA sequencing

Benjamin E. Paluch, Sean T. Glenn, Jeffrey M. Conroy, Antonios Papanicolau-Sengos, Wiam Bshara, Angela R. Omilian, Elizabeth Brese, Mary Nesline, Blake Burgher, Jonathan Andreas, Kunle Odunsi, Kevin Eng, Ji He, Maochun Qin, Mark Gardner, Lorenzo Galluzzi and Carl D. Morrison _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:3197-3205. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13691

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Benjamin E. Paluch1, Sean T. Glenn1,2, Jeffrey M. Conroy1,3, Antonios Papanicolau-Sengos1, Wiam Bshara4, Angela R. Omilian4, Elizabeth Brese4, Mary Nesline1, Blake Burgher1, Jonathan Andreas1, Kunle Odunsi5, Kevin Eng6, Ji He1, Maochun Qin1, Mark Gardner1, Lorenzo Galluzzi7,8,9,10,11,12, Carl D. Morrison1,3

1Omniseq LLC, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA

2Department of Cancer Genetics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

3Center for Personalized Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

4Department of Pathology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

5Department of Gynecologic Oncology, Center for Immunotherapy, Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

6Department of Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA

7Department of Radiation Oncology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065, USA

8Equipe 11 labellisée Ligue contre le Cancer, Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers, 75006 Paris, France

9INSERM, U1138, 75006 Paris, France

10Université Paris Descartes/Paris V, Sorbonne Paris Cité, 75006 Paris, France

11Université Pierre et Marie Curie/Paris VI, 75006 Paris, France

12Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus, 94805 Villejuif, France

Correspondence to:

Carl D. Morrison, email: [email protected]

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy, CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes, nivolumab, NY-ESO-1, PD-L1

Received: October 21, 2016     Accepted: November 21, 2016     Published: November 29, 2016


Current criteria for identifying cancer patients suitable for immunotherapy with immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs) are subjective and prone to misinterpretation, as they mainly rely on the visual assessment of CD274 (best known as PD-L1) expression levels by immunohistochemistry (IHC). To address this issue, we developed a RNA sequencing (RNAseq)-based approach that specifically measures the abundance of immune transcripts in formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) specimens. Besides exhibiting superior sensitivity as compared to whole transcriptome RNAseq, our assay requires little starting material, implying that it is compatible with RNA degradation normally caused by formalin. Here, we demonstrate that a targeted RNAseq panel reliably profiles mRNA expression levels in FFPE samples from a cohort of ovarian carcinoma patients. The expression profile of immune transcripts as measured by targeted RNAseq in FFPE versus freshly frozen (FF) samples from the same tumor was highly concordant, in spite of the RNA quality issues associated with formalin fixation. Moreover, the results of targeted RNAseq on FFPE specimens exhibited a robust correlation with mRNA expression levels as measured on the same samples by quantitative RT-PCR, as well as with protein abundance as determined by IHC. These findings demonstrate that RNAseq profiling on archival FFPE tissues can be used reliably in studies assessing the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.

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