A number of computational methods have been proposed recently to profile tumor microenvironment (TME) from bulk RNA data, and they have proved useful for understanding microenvironment differences among therapeutic response groups. However, these methods are not able to account for tumor proportion nor variable mRNA levels across cell types.


In this article, we propose a Nonnegative Matrix Factorization-based Immune-TUmor MIcroenvironment Deconvolution (NITUMID) framework for TME profiling that addresses these limitations. It is designed to provide robust estimates of tumor and immune cells proportions simultaneously, while accommodating mRNA level differences across cell types. Through comprehensive simulations and real data analyses, we demonstrate that NITUMID not only can accurately estimate tumor fractions and cell types’ mRNA levels, which are currently unavailable in other methods; it also outperforms most existing deconvolution methods in regular cell type profiling accuracy. Moreover, we show that NITUMID can more effectively detect clinical and prognostic signals from gene expression profiles in tumor than other methods.

Availability and implementation

The algorithm is implemented in R. The source code can be downloaded at

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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