TMB and Inflammatory Gene Expression Associated With Clinical Outcomes Following Immunotherapy in Advanced Melanoma

Hodi FS, Wolchok JD, Schadendorf D, Larkin J, Long GV, Qian X, Saci A, Young TC, Srinivasan S, Chang H, Tang H, Wind-Rotolo M, Rizzo JI, Jackson DG, Ascierto PA. Cancer Immunol Res. (Epub 13 Aug 2021)


Outcomes for patients with melanoma have improved over the past decade as a result of the development and FDA approval of immunotherapies targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4), programmed death-1 (PD-1), and programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1). However, these therapies do not benefit all patients, and an area of intensive research investigation is identifying biomarkers that can predict which patients are most likely to benefit from them. Here, we report exploratory analyses of the associations of tumor mutational burden (TMB), a 4-gene inflammatory gene expression signature, and BRAF mutation status with tumor response, progression-free survival, and overall survival in patients with advanced melanoma treated as part of the CheckMate 066 and 067 phase III clinical trials evaluating immuno-oncology therapies. In patients enrolled in CheckMate 067 receiving the anti-PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab (NIVO) alone or in combination with the anti-CTLA-4 inhibitor ipilimumab (IPI) or IPI alone, longer survival appeared to associate with high (>median) versus low (≤median) TMB and with high versus low inflammatory signature scores. For NIVO-treated patients, the results regarding TMB association were confirmed in CheckMate 066. In addition, improved survival was observed with high TMB and absence of BRAF mutation. Weak correlations were observed between PD-L1, TMB, and the inflammatory signature. Combined assessment of TMB, inflammatory gene expression signature, and BRAF mutation status may be predictive for response to immune checkpoint blockade in advanced melanoma.