Daniel Haensel, Bence Daniel, Sadhana Gaddam, Cory Pan, Tania Fabo, Jeremy Bjelajac, Anna R Jussila, Fernanda Gonzalez, Nancy Yanzhe Li, Yun Chen, JinChao Hou, Tiffany Patel, Sumaira Aasi, Ansuman T Satpathy, Anthony E Oro
Nature Communications, 10 May 2023

Cancer immunotherapies have revolutionized treatment but have shown limited success as single-agent therapies highlighting the need to understand the origin, assembly, and dynamics of heterogeneous tumor immune niches. Here, we use single-cell and imaging-based spatial analysis to elucidate three microenvironmental neighborhoods surrounding the heterogeneous basal cell carcinoma tumor epithelia. Within the highly proliferative neighborhood, we find that TREM2+ skin cancer-associated macrophages (SCAMs) support the proliferation of a distinct tumor epithelial population through an immunosuppression-independent manner via oncostatin-M/JAK-STAT3 signaling. SCAMs represent a unique tumor-specific TREM2+ population defined by VCAM1 surface expression that is not found in normal homeostatic skin or during wound healing. Furthermore, SCAMs actively proliferate and self-propagate through multiple serial tumor passages, indicating long-term potential. The tumor rapidly drives SCAM differentiation, with intratumoral injections sufficient to instruct naive bone marrow-derived monocytes to polarize within days. This work provides mechanistic insights into direct tumor-immune niche dynamics independent of immunosuppression, providing the basis for potential combination tumor therapies.