Papillary thyroid cancer immune phenotypes via tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte spatial analysis.

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Publication Date



JGM, Humans, Thyroid Cancer, Papillary, Thyroid Neoplasms, Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating, Artificial Intelligence, Phenotype, Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf, Mutation, Tumor Microenvironment

JAX Source

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2023;30(9):e230110.








Jeffrey H. Chuang acknowledges support from NIH grants R01CA230031 and P30CA034196.


Standard-of-care treatment options provide an excellent prognosis for papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs); however, approximately 10% of cases are advanced PTCs, resulting in less than 50% 5-year survival rates. Understanding the tumor microenvironment is essential for understanding cancer progression and investigating potential biomarkers for treatment, such as immunotherapy. Our study focused on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), which are the main effectors of antitumor immunity and related to the mechanism of immunotherapy. Using an artificial intelligence model, we analyzed the density of intratumoral and peritumoral TILs in the pathologic slides of The Cancer Genome Atlas PTC cohort. Tumors were classified into three immune phenotypes (IPs) based on the spatial distribution of TILs: immune-desert (48%), immune-excluded (34%), and inflamed (18%). Immune-desert IP was mostly characterized by RAS mutations, high thyroid differentiation score, and low antitumor immune response. Immune-excluded IP predominantly consisted of BRAF V600E-mutated tumors and had a higher rate of lymph node metastasis. Inflamed IP was characterized by a high antitumor immune response, as demonstrated by a high cytolytic score, immune-related cell infiltrations, expression of immunomodulatory molecules (including immunotherapy target molecules), and enrichment of immune-related pathways. This study is the first to investigate IP classification using TILs in PTC through a tissue-based approach. Each IP had unique immune and genomic profiles. Further studies are warranted to assess the predictive value of IP classification in advanced PTC patients treated with immunotherapy.

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