The metabolic properties of tumor microenvironment (TME) are dynamically dysregulated to achieve immune escape and promote cancer cell survival. However, in vivo properties of glucose metabolism in cancer and immune cells are poorly understood and their clinical application to development of a biomarker reflecting immune functionality is still lacking. Methods: We analyzed RNA-seq and fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography profiles of 63 lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) specimens to correlate FDG uptake, expression of glucose transporters (GLUT) by RNA-seq and immune cell enrichment score (ImmuneScore). Single cell RNA-seq analysis in five lung cancer specimens was performed. We tested the GLUT3/GLUT1 ratio, the GLUT-ratio, as a surrogate representing immune metabolic functionality by investigating the association with immunotherapy response in two melanoma cohorts. Results: ImmuneScore showed a negative correlation with GLUT1 (r = -0.70, p < 0.01) and a positive correlation with GLUT3 (r = 0.39, p < 0.01) in LUSC. Single-cell RNA-seq showed GLUT1 and GLUT3 were mostly expressed in cancer and immune cells, respectively. In immune-poor LUSC, FDG uptake was positively correlated with GLUT1 (r = 0.27, p = 0.04) and negatively correlated with ImmuneScore (r = -0.28, p = 0.04). In immune-rich LUSC, FDG uptake was positively correlated with both GLUT3 (r = 0.78, p = 0.01) and ImmuneScore (r = 0.58, p = 0.10). The GLUT-ratio was higher in anti-PD1 responders than nonresponders (p = 0.08 for baseline; p = 0.02 for on-treatment) and associated with a progression-free survival in melanoma patients who treated with anti-CTLA4 (p = 0.04). Conclusions: Competitive uptake of glucose by cancer and immune cells in TME could be mediated by differential GLUT expression in these cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9579-9590
Number of pages12
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2020


  • Glucose transporter
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung squamous cell carcinoma
  • Tumor metabolism
  • Tumor microenvironment


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