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Cross center single-cell RNA sequencing study of the immune microenvironment in rapid progressing multiple myeloma

Despite advancements in understanding the pathophysiology of Multiple Myeloma (MM), the cause of rapid progressing disease in a subset of patients is still unclear. MM’s progression is facilitated by complex interactions with the surrounding bone marrow (BM) cells, forming a microenvironment that supports tumor growth and drug resistance. Understanding the immune microenvironment is key to identifying factors that promote rapid progression of MM. To accomplish this, we performed a multi-center single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) study on 102,207 cells from 48 CD138 BM samples collected at the time of disease diagnosis from 18 patients with either rapid progressing (progression-free survival (PFS) < 18 months) or non-progressing (PFS > 4 years) disease. Comparative analysis of data from three centers demonstrated similar transcriptome profiles and cell type distributions, indicating subtle technical variation in scRNA-seq, opening avenues for an expanded multicenter trial. Rapid progressors depicted significantly higher enrichment of GZMK+ and TIGIT+ exhausted CD8+ T-cells (P = 0.022) along with decreased expression of cytolytic markers (PRF1, GZMB, GNLY). We also observed a significantly higher enrichment of M2 tolerogenic macrophages in rapid progressors and activation of pro-proliferative signaling pathways, such as BAFF, CCL, and IL16. On the other hand, non-progressive patients depicted higher enrichment for immature B Cells (i.e., Pre/Pro B cells), with elevated expression for markers of B cell development (IGLL1SOX4DNTT). This multi-center study identifies the enrichment of various pro-tumorigenic cell populations and pathways in those with rapid progressing disease and further validates the robustness of scRNA-seq data generated at different study centers.

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