Distinguishing Keratoacanthoma from Well-Differentiated Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Using Single-Cell Spatial Pathology

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Journal of investigative dermatology


Keratoacanthoma (KA) is a common keratinocyte neoplasm that is regularly classified as a type of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) despite demonstrating benign behavior. Differentiating KA from well-differentiated cSCC is difficult in many cases due to the substantial overlap of clinical and histological features. Currently, no reliable discriminating markers have been defined, and consequently, KAs are often treated similarly to cSCC, creating unnecessary surgical morbidity and healthcare costs. Here, we used RNAseq to identify key differences in transcriptomes between KA and cSCC, which suggested divergent keratinocyte populations between each tumor. Imaging mass cytometry (IMC) was then used to identify single-cell tissue characteristics, including cellular phenotype, frequency, topography, functional status, and interactions between KA and well-differentiated cSCC. We found that cSCC had significantly increased proportions of Ki67+ keratinocytes among tumor keratinocytes, which were dispersed significantly throughout non-basal keratinocyte communities. In cSCC, regulatory T cells (Tregs) were more prevalent and held greater suppressive capacity. Furthermore, cSCC Tregs, tumor-associated macrophages, and fibroblasts had significant associations with Ki67(+) keratinocytes as opposed to avoidances with KA, indicating a more immunosuppressive environment. Our data suggest that multicellular spatial features can serve as a foundation to enhance the histological discrimination of ambiguous KA and cSCC lesions.

PubMed ID



ePub ahead of print