Bulk and Single-Cell Profiling of Breast Tumors Identifies TREM-1 as a Dominant Immune Suppressive Marker Associated With Poor Outcomes

Ashok K. Pullikuth, Eric D. Routh, Kip D. Zimmerman, Julia Chifman, Jeff W. Chou, Michael H. Soike, Guangxu Jin, Jing Su, Qianqian Song, Michael A. Black, Cristin Print, Davide Bedognetti, Marissa Howard-McNatt, Stacey S. O’Neill, Alexandra Thomas, Carl D. Langefeld, Alexander B. Sigalov, Yong Lu, Lance D. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells (TREM)-1 is a key mediator of innate immunity previously associated with the severity of inflammatory disorders, and more recently, the inferior survival of lung and liver cancer patients. Here, we investigated the prognostic impact and immunological correlates of TREM1 expression in breast tumors. Methods: Breast tumor microarray and RNAseq expression profiles (n=4,364 tumors) were analyzed for associations between gene expression, tumor immune subtypes, distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) and clinical response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC). Single-cell (sc)RNAseq was performed using the 10X Genomics platform. Statistical associations were assessed by logistic regression, Cox regression, Kaplan-Meier analysis, Spearman correlation, Student’s t-test and Chi-square test. Results: In pre-treatment biopsies, TREM1 and known TREM-1 inducible cytokines (IL1B, IL8) were discovered by a statistical ranking procedure as top genes for which high expression was associated with reduced response to NAC, but only in the context of immunologically “hot” tumors otherwise associated with a high NAC response rate. In surgical specimens, TREM1 expression varied among tumor molecular subtypes, with highest expression in the more aggressive subtypes (Basal-like, HER2-E). High TREM1 significantly and reproducibly associated with inferior distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS), independent of conventional prognostic markers. Notably, the association between high TREM1 and inferior DMFS was most prominent in the subset of immunogenic tumors that exhibited the immunologically hot phenotype and otherwise associated with superior DMFS. Further observations from bulk and single-cell RNAseq analyses indicated that TREM1 expression was significantly enriched in polymorphonuclear myeloid-derived suppressor cells (PMN-MDSCs) and M2-like macrophages, and correlated with downstream transcriptional targets of TREM-1 (IL8, IL-1B, IL6, MCP-1, SPP1, IL1RN, INHBA) which have been previously associated with pro-tumorigenic and immunosuppressive functions. Conclusions: Together, these findings indicate that increased TREM1 expression is prognostic of inferior breast cancer outcomes and may contribute to myeloid-mediated breast cancer progression and immune suppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number734959
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Dec 8 2021


  • TREM-1
  • breast cancer
  • cytokines
  • immune signature
  • immune suppression
  • transcriptomics
  • tumor infiltrating myeloid cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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