Intratumoral heterogeneity of second-harmonic generation scattering from tumor collagen and its effects on metastatic risk prediction
BMC Cancer , Volume 20 - Issue 1
Background: Metastases are the leading cause of breast cancer-related deaths. The tumor microenvironment impacts cancer progression and metastatic ability. Fibrillar collagen, a major extracellular matrix component, can be studied using the light scattering phenomenon known as second-harmonic generation (SHG). The ratio of forward- to backward-scattered SHG photons (F/B) is sensitive to collagen fiber internal structure and has been shown to be an independent prognostic indicator of metastasis-free survival time (MFS). Here we assess the effects of heterogeneity in the tumor matrix on the possible use of F/B as a prognostic tool. Methods: SHG imaging was performed on sectioned primary tumor excisions from 95 untreated, estrogen receptor-positive, lymph node negative invasive ductal carcinoma patients. We identified two distinct regions whose collagen displayed different average F/B values, indicative of spatial heterogeneity: the cellular tumor bulk and surrounding tumor-stroma interface. To evaluate the impact of heterogeneity on F/B’s prognostic ability, we performed SHG imaging in the tumor bulk and tumor-stroma interface, calculated a 21-gene recurrence score (surrogate for OncotypeDX®, or S-ODX) for each patient and evaluated their combined prognostic ability. Results: We found that F/B measured in tumor-stroma interface, but not tumor bulk, is prognostic of MFS using three methods to select pixels for analysis: an intensity threshold selected by a blinded observer, a histogram-based thresholding method, and an adaptive thresholding method. Using both regression trees and Random Survival Forests for MFS outcome, we obtained data-driven prediction rules that show F/B from tumor-stroma interface, but not tumor bulk, and S-ODX both contribute to predicting MFS in this patient cohort. We also separated patients into low-intermediate (S-ODX < 26) and high risk (S-ODX ≥26) groups. In the low-intermediate risk group, comprised of patients not typically recommended for adjuvant chemotherapy, we find that F/B from the tumor-stroma interface is prognostic of MFS and can identify a patient cohort with poor outcomes. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that intratumoral heterogeneity in F/B values can play an important role in its possible use as a prognostic marker, and that F/B from tumor-stroma interface of primary tumor excisions may provide useful information to stratify patients by metastatic risk.