Multiplexed 3D Atlas Of State Transitions And Immune Interactions In Colorectal Cancer
Advanced solid cancers are complex assemblies of tumor, immune, and stromal cells that invade adjacent tissue and spread to distant sites. Here we use highly multiplexed tissue imaging, spatial statistics, and machine learning to identify cell types and states underlying morphological features of known diagnostic and prognostic significance in colorectal cancer. We find that a thorough spatial analysis requires imaging the entire tumor region, not small fields of view (e.g. those found in tissue microarrays). When this condition is met, the data reveal frequent transitions between histological archetypes (tumor grades and morphologies) correlated with molecular gradients. At the tumor invasive margin, where tumor, normal, and immune cells compete, localized features in 2D such as tumor buds and mucin pools are seen in 3D to be large connected structures having continuously varying molecular properties. Immunosuppressive cell-cell interactions also exhibit graded variation in type and frequency. Thus, whereas scRNA-Seq emphasizes discrete changes in tumor state, whole-specimen imaging reveals the presence of large- and small-scale spatial gradients analogous to those in developing tissues.