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Transcriptomic intra-tumor heterogeneity of colorectal cancer varies depending on tumor location within the colorectum

Background; Intra-tumor heterogeneity (ITH) of colorectal cancer (CRC) complicates molecular tumor classification, such as transcriptional subtyping. Differences in cellular states, biopsy cell composition, and tumor microenvironment may all lead to ITH. Here we analyze ITH at the transcriptomic and proteomic levels to ascertain whether subtype discordance between multiregional biopsies reflects relevant biological ITH or lack of classifier robustness. Further, we study the impact of tumor location on ITH.MethodsMultiregional biopsies from stage II and III CRC tumors were analyzed by RNA sequencing (41 biopsies, 14 tumors) and multiplex immune protein analysis (89 biopsies, 29 tumors). CRC subtyping were performed using consensus molecular subtypes (CMS), CRC intrinsic subtypes (CRIS), and TUMOR types. ITH-scores and network maps were defined to determine the origin of heterogeneity. A validation cohort was used with one biopsy per tumor (162 tumors).ResultsOverall, inter-tumor transcriptional variation exceeded ITH, and subtyping calls were frequently concordant between multiregional biopsies. Still, some tumors had high ITH and were classified discordantly. Proximal tumors showed ITH related to differences in the microenvironment, while ITH within distal tumors were cancer-cell related. This subtype discordancy reflected actual molecular ITH within the tumors. The relevance of the subtypes was reflected at protein level where several inflammation markers were significantly increased in immune related transcriptional subtypes, which was verified in an independent cohort (Wilcoxon rank sum test; p<0.05).ConclusionOur transcriptomic and proteomic analyses show that the tumor location along the colorectum influence the ITH of CRC, which again influence the concordance of subtyping.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001006636 NextSeq 500 41
Publications Citations
Transcriptomic and proteomic intra-tumor heterogeneity of colorectal cancer varies depending on tumor location within the colorectum.
PLoS One 15: 2020 e0241148