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High tumor mutational burden correlates with longer survival in immunotherapy-naïve patients with diverse cancers

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Abstract

Higher tumor mutational burden (TMB) has been correlated with response to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. However, it is unclear whether TMB independently serves as a prognostic biomarker for outcomes in immunotherapy-naïve patients. Here, we evaluated the relationship between TMB and overall survival in 1,415 immunotherapy-naïve patients with diverse advanced malignancies. TMB was studied both as a tiered variable (low ≤5 mutations/Mb, intermediate >5 and <20, high ≥20 and <50, and very high ≥50) and as a continuous variable. Interestingly, we observed a parabolic correlation between TMB and overall survival, in which intermediate-range TMB correlated with decreased survival, whereas low and very high TMB correlated with improved outcomes (median survival: 238, 174, 195, and 350 weeks for low, intermediate, high, and very high TMB, respectively; multivariate P < 0.01). This corresponded to an HR of 1.29 (95% confidence interval, 1.07–1.54; P < 0.01) for intermediate-range TMB on multivariable survival analysis correcting for known confounders, including primary tumor of origin. These results demonstrate that TMB may have utility as a prognostic biomarker in immunotherapy-naïve patients, with a protective effect at higher TMBs, and that studies of survival in immunotherapy-treated patients may need to stratify or randomize by TMB in a nonlinear fashion to account for this confounding.

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Riviere, P., Goodman, A. M., Okamura, R., Barkauskas, D. A., Whitchurch, T. J., Lee, S., … Kurzrock, R. (2020). High tumor mutational burden correlates with longer survival in immunotherapy-naïve patients with diverse cancers. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 19(10), 2139–2145. https://doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-20-0161

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