Purpose: Ipilimumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody specific to CTLA-4, has been shown to improve overall survival in metastatic melanoma patients. As a consequence of CTLA-4 blockade, ipilimumab treatment is associated with proliferation and activation of peripheral T cells. To better understand various tumor-associated components that may influence the clinical outcome of ipilimumab treatment, gene expression profiles of tumors from patients treated with ipilimumab were characterized.
Experimental design: Gene expression profiling was performed on tumor biopsies collected from 45 melanoma patients before and 3 weeks after the start of treatment in a phase II clinical trial.
Results: Analysis of pre-treatment tumors indicated that patients with high baseline expression levels of immune-related genes were more likely to respond favorably to ipilimumab. Furthermore, ipilimumab appeared to induce two major changes in tumors from patients who exhibited clinical activity: genes involved in immune response showed increased expression, whereas expression of genes for melanoma-specific antigens and genes involved in cell proliferation decreased. These changes were associated with the total lymphocyte infiltrate in tumors, and there was a suggestion of association with prolonged overall survival in these patients. Many IFN-γ-inducible genes and Th1-associated markers showed increased expression after ipilimumab treatment, suggesting an accumulation of this particular type of T cell at the tumor sites, which might play an important role in mediating the antitumor activity of ipilimumab.
Conclusions: These results support the proposed mechanism of action of ipilimumab, suggesting that cell-mediated immune responses play an important role in the antitumor activity of ipilimumab.