Integrating RNA Expression and Visual Features for Immune Infiltrate Prediction

Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing Manuscript
Authors Derek Reiman, Lingdao Sha, Irvin Ho, Timothy Tan, Denise Lau, and Aly A. Khan

Patient responses to cancer immunotherapy are shaped by their unique genomic landscape and tumor microenvironment. Clinical advances in immunotherapy are changing the treatment landscape by enhancing a patient’s immune response to eliminate cancer cells. While this provides potentially beneficial treatment options for many patients, only a minority of these patients respond to immunotherapy. In this work, we examined RNA-seq data and digital pathology images from individual patient tumors to more accurately characterize the tumor-immune microenvironment. Several studies implicate an inflamed microenvironment and increased percentage of tumor infiltrating immune cells with better response to specific immunotherapies in certain cancer types. We developed NEXT (Neural-based models for integrating gene EXpression and visual Texture features) to more accurately model immune infiltration in solid tumors. To demonstrate the utility of the NEXT framework, we predicted immune infiltrates across four different cancer types and evaluated our predictions against expert pathology review. Our analyses demonstrate that integration of imaging features improves prediction of the immune infiltrate. Of note, this effect was preferentially observed for B cells and CD8 T cells. In sum, our work effectively integrates both RNA-seq and imaging data in a clinical setting and provides a more reliable and accurate prediction of the immune composition in individual patient tumors.