Role of Tumor-Infiltrating B Cells in Clinical Outcome of Patients with Melanoma Treated With Dabrafenib Plus Trametinib

Brase JC, Walter RFH, Savchenko A, Gusenleitner D, Garrett J, Schimming TT, Váraljai R, Castelletti D, Kim JY, Dakappagari NK, Schultz K, Robert C, Long GV, Nathan PD, Ribas A, Flaherty KT, Karaszewska B, Schachter J, Sucker A, Schmid KW, Zimmer L, Livingstone E, Gasal E, Schadendorf D, Roesch A. Clin Cancer Res. (Epub 9 June 2021)


Purpose: Although patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma can experience long-term survival with BRAF- and MEK-targeted agents or immune checkpoint inhibitors over 5 years, resistance develops in most patients. There is a distinct lack of pretherapeutic biomarkers to identify which patients are likely to benefit from each therapy type. Most research has focused on the predictive role of T cells in antitumor responses as opposed to B cells.

Patients and methods: We conducted prespecified exploratory biomarker analysis using gene expression profiling and digital pathology in 146 patients with previously untreated BRAF V600-mutant metastatic melanoma from the randomized, phase III COMBI-v trial and treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib who had available tumor specimens from screening.

Results: Baseline cell-cycle gene expression signature was associated with progression-free survival (P = 0.007). Patients with high T-cell/low B-cell gene signatures had improved median overall survival (not reached [95% confidence interval (CI), 33.8 months-not reached]) compared with patients with high T-cell/high B-cell signatures (19.1 months; 95% CI, 13.4-38.6 months). Patients with high B-cell signatures had high B-cell infiltration into the tumor compartment, corresponding with decreased MAPK activity and increased expression of immunosuppressive markers.

Conclusions: B cells may serve as a potential biomarker to predict clinical outcome in patients with advanced melanoma treated with dabrafenib plus trametinib. As separate studies have shown an opposite effect for B-cell levels and response to immunotherapy, B cells may serve as a potential biomarker to facilitate treatment selection. Further validation in a larger patient cohort is needed.