Abstract

In the microenvironment of breast cancer, immune cell infiltration is associated with an improved prognosis. To identify immune-related prognostic markers and therapeutic targets, we determined the lymphocyte-specific kinase (LCK) metagene scores of samples from breast cancer patients in The Cancer Genome Atlas. The LCK metagene score correlated highly with other immune-related scores, as well as with the clinical stage, prognosis and tumor suppressor gene mutation status (BRCA2, TP53, PTEN) of patients in the four breast cancer subtypes. A weighted gene co-expression network analysis was performed to detect representative genes from LCK metagene-related gene modules. In two of these modules, the levels of the co-expressed genes correlated highly with LCK metagene levels, so we conducted an enrichment analysis to discover their functions. We also identified differentially expressed genes in samples with high and low LCK metagene scores. By examining the overlapping results from these analyses, we obtained 115 genes, and found that 22 of them were independent predictors of overall survival in breast cancer patients. These genes were validated for their prognostic and diagnostic value with external data sets and paired tumor and non-tumor tissues. The genes identified herein could serve as diagnostic/prognostic markers and immune-related therapeutic targets in breast cancer.