Predicting response to checkpoint inhibitors in melanoma beyond PD-L1 and mutational burden

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Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have changed the clinical management of melanoma. However, not all patients respond, and current biomarkers including PD-L1 and mutational burden show incomplete predictive performance. The clinical validity and utility of complex biomarkers have not been studied in melanoma. Methods: Cutaneous metastatic melanoma patients at eight institutions were evaluated for PD-L1 expression, CD8+ T-cell infiltration pattern, mutational burden, and 394 immune transcript expression. PD-L1 IHC and mutational burden were assessed for association with overall survival (OS) in 94 patients treated prior to ICI approval by the FDA (historical-controls), and in 137 patients treated with ICIs. Unsupervised analysis revealed distinct immune-clusters with separate response rates. This comprehensive immune profiling data were then integrated to generate a continuous Response Score (RS) based upon response criteria (RECIST v.1.1). RS was developed using a single institution training cohort (n=48) and subsequently tested in a separate eight institution validation cohort (n=29) to mimic a real-world clinical scenario. Results: PD-L1 positivity ≥1% correlated with response and OS in ICI-treated patients, but demonstrated limited predictive performance. High mutational burden was associated with response in ICI-treated patients, but not with OS. Comprehensive immune profiling using RS demonstrated higher sensitivity (72.2%) compared to PD-L1 IHC (34.25%) and tumor mutational burden (32.5%), but with similar specificity. Conclusions: In this study, the response score derived from comprehensive immune profiling in a limited melanoma cohort showed improved predictive performance as compared to PD-L1 IHC and tumor mutational burden.




Morrison, C., Pabla, S., Conroy, J. M., Nesline, M. K., Glenn, S. T., Dressman, D., … Ernstoff, M. S. (2018). Predicting response to checkpoint inhibitors in melanoma beyond PD-L1 and mutational burden. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 6(1).

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