Background: Melanoma brain metastases (MBMs) are a challenging clinical problem with high morbidity and mortality. Although first-line dabrafenib-trametinib and ipilimumab-nivolumab have similar intracranial response rates (50%-55%), central nervous system (CNS) resistance to BRAF-MEK inhibitors (BRAF-MEKi) usually occurs around 6 months, and durable responses are only seen with combination immunotherapy. We sought to investigate the utility of ipilimumab-nivolumab after MBM progression on BRAF-MEKi and identify mechanisms of resistance.
Methods: Patients who received first-line ipilimumab-nivolumab for MBMs or second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab for intracranial metastases with BRAFV600 mutations with prior progression on BRAF-MEKi and MRI brain staging from March 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018 were included. Modified intracranial RECIST was used to assess response. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples of BRAFV600 mutant MBMs that were naïve to systemic treatment (n=18) or excised after progression on BRAF-MEKi (n=14) underwent whole transcriptome sequencing. Comparative analyses of MBMs naïve to systemic treatment versus BRAF-MEKi progression were performed.
Results: Twenty-five and 30 patients who received first and second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab, were included respectively. Median sum of MBM diameters was 13 and 20.5 mm for the first and second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab groups, respectively. Intracranial response rate was 75.0% (12/16), and median progression-free survival (PFS) was 41.6 months for first-line ipilimumab-nivolumab. Efficacy of second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab after BRAF-MEKi progression was poor with an intracranial response rate of 4.8% (1/21) and median PFS of 1.3 months. Given the poor activity of ipilimumab-nivolumab after BRAF-MEKi MBM progression, we performed whole transcriptome sequencing to identify mechanisms of drug resistance. We identified a set of 178 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between naïve and MBMs with progression on BRAF-MEKi treatment (p value <0.05, false discovery rate (FDR) <0.1). No distinct pathways were identified from gene set enrichment analyses using Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes, Gene Ontogeny or Hallmark libraries; however, enrichment of DEG from the Innate Anti-PD1 Resistance Signature (IPRES) was identified (p value=0.007, FDR=0.03).
Conclusions: Second-line ipilimumab-nivolumab for MBMs after BRAF-MEKi progression has poor activity. MBMs that are resistant to BRAF-MEKi that also conferred resistance to second-line ipilimumab-nivolumab showed enrichment of the IPRES gene signature.