Meta-Analysis of Microdissected Breast Tumors Reveals Genes Regulated in the Stroma but Hidden in Bulk Analysis.
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Transcriptome data provide a valuable resource for the study of cancer molecular mechanisms, but technical biases, sample heterogeneity, and small sample sizes result in poorly reproducible lists of regulated genes. Additionally, the presence of multiple cellular components contributing to cancer development complicates the interpretation of bulk transcriptomic profiles. To address these issues, we collected 48 microarray datasets derived from laser capture microdissected stroma or epithelium in breast tumors and performed a meta-analysis identifying robust lists of differentially expressed genes. This was used to create a database with carefully harmonized metadata that we make freely available to the research community. As predicted, combining the results of multiple datasets improved statistical power. Moreover, the separate analysis of stroma and epithelium allowed the identification of genes with different contributions in each compartment, which would not be detected by bulk analysis due to their distinct regulation in the two compartments. Our method can be profitably used to help in the discovery of biomarkers and the identification of functionally relevant genes in both the stroma and the epithelium. This database was made to be readily accessible through a user-friendly web interface.


Spatial Transcriptomics
breast cancer
tumor microenvironment
tumor stroma


Savino, Aurora
De Marzo, Niccolò
Provero, Paolo
Poli, Valeria

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