Biopsy variability of lymphocytic infiltration in breast cancer subtypes and the ImmunoSkew score.
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The number of tumour biopsies required for a good representation of tumours has been controversial. An important factor to consider is intra-tumour heterogeneity, which can vary among cancer types and subtypes. Immune cells in particular often display complex infiltrative patterns, however, there is a lack of quantitative understanding of the spatial heterogeneity of immune cells and how this fundamental biological nature of human tumours influences biopsy variability and treatment resistance. We systematically investigate biopsy variability for the lymphocytic infiltrate in 998 breast tumours using a novel virtual biopsy method. Across all breast cancers, we observe a nonlinear increase in concordance between the biopsy and whole-tumour score of lymphocytic infiltrate with increasing number of biopsies, yet little improvement is gained with more than four biopsies. Interestingly, biopsy variability of lymphocytic infiltrate differs considerably among breast cancer subtypes, with the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (HER2+) subtype having the highest variability. We subsequently identify a quantitative measure of spatial variability that predicts disease-specific survival in HER2+ subtype independent of standard clinical variables (node status, tumour size and grade). Our study demonstrates how systematic methods provide new insights that can influence future study design based on a quantitative knowledge of tumour heterogeneity.
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Computational Pathology & Integrated Genomics
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Sci Rep, 2016, 6 pp. 36231 - ?