Molecular profiling and characterization of the tumor immune microenvironment (TME) in appendiceal carcinoma (AC)


Muneeb Rehman, Yasmine Baca, Joanne Xiu, Phillip Walker, Emil Lou, Wafik El-Deiry, Heinz-Josef Lenz, Anthony Shields, John Marshall, Curtis Johnston, Matthew Oberley, Sanjay Goel, Benjamin Weinberg, Andreana Holowatyj


The rarity of appendiceal adenocarcinoma (AC) presents challenges in understanding disease pathogenesis. We previously showed that AC has higher rates of mutations in KRAS and GNAS and lower rates of TP53, APC, and PIK3CA than CRC. The appendix also has many lymphoid clusters and regulates IgA production in the large bowel, suggesting that AC may be subject to more lymphocytic regulation than CRC. We sought to characterize the molecular profile and TME across AC histopathological types.


  • AC (N = 731) were grouped by histology: 5% goblet cell (GC), 6% high-grade adenocarcinoma (HGA), 14% low grade mucinous (LGM), 33% mucinous adenocarcinoma (MA), 1% pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), 6% signet ring cell carcinoma (SRC), and 35% adenocarcinoma not otherwise specified (NOS).
  • Median TMB was significantly higher in NOS vs. GC (4 mutations/megabase vs 2, q < 0.001), NOS vs. LGM (4 vs 3, q = 0.048), MA vs. GC (4 vs 2, q < 0.001), and MA vs. LGM (4 vs 3, q = 0.037).
  • Distinct TME patterns were observed in NOS vs. MA (median cell fraction: dendritic cells 0.07 vs 0, q < 0.01; M2 macrophages 0.055 vs 0.042, q = 0.030; natural killer cells 0.034 vs 0.031, q = 0.011; CD4 T cells 0.006 vs 0, q = 0.044) and GC vs. MA (M1 macrophages 0.039 vs 0.057, q = 0.021; dendritic cells 0.012 vs 0, q < 0.01; B cells 0.061 vs 0.050, q = 0.013; M2 macrophages 0.074 vs 0.042, q < 0.01; natural killer cells 0.041 vs 0.031, q = 0.01; and neutrophils 0.017 vs 0.038 q = 0.045).
  • There is significant heterogeneity in TMB, TME, and mutational profiles across AC histologies. MA has a particularly immune-cold TME shown by lower infiltration of lymphocytes, TIS, and IO gene expression. These findings are critical to identify novel biomarkers and develop new therapeutic strategies for AC.
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