Low T-cell Receptor Diversity, High Somatic Mutation Burden, and High Neoantigen Load as Predictors of Clinical Outcome in Muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer

Eur Urol Focus. 2016 Oct;2(4):445-452. doi: 10.1016/j.euf.2015.09.007. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Background: The success of cancer immunotherapies has highlighted the potent ability of local adaptive immune responses to eradicate cancer cells by targeting neoantigens generated by somatic alterations. However, how these factors interact to drive the natural history of muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) is not well understood.

Objective: To investigate the role of immune regulation in MIBC disease progression, we performed massively parallel T-cell receptor (TCR) sequencing of tumor-infiltrating T cells (TILs), in silico neoantigen prediction from exome sequences, and expression analysis of immune-related genes.

Design, setting, and participants: We analyzed 38 MIBC tissues from patients who underwent definitive surgery with a minimum clinical follow-up of 2 yr.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Recurrence-free survival (RFS) was determined. TCR diversity was quantified using Simpson's diversity index. The main analyses involved the Mann-Whitney U test, Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, and Cox proportional hazards models.

Results and limitations: Low TCRβ chain diversity, correlating with oligoclonal TIL expansion, was significantly correlated with longer RFS, even after adjustment for pathologic tumor stage, node status, and receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy (hazard ratio 2.67, 95% confidence interval 1.08-6.60; p=0.03). Patients with both a high number of neoantigens and low TCRβ diversity had longer RFS compared to those with fewer neoantigens and high TCR diversity (median RFS 275 vs 30 wk; p=0.03). Higher expression of immune cytolytic genes was associated with nonrecurrence among patients with low TCR diversity or fewer neoantigens. Limitations include the sample size and the inability to distinguish CD8+ and CD4+ T cells using TCR sequencing.

Conclusions: These findings are the first to show that detailed tumor immune-genome analysis at definitive surgery can identify molecular patterns of antitumor immune response contributing to better clinical outcomes in MIBC.

Patient summary: We discovered that clonal expansion of certain T cells in tumor tissue, possibly targeting cancer-specific antigens, contributes to prevention of bladder cancer recurrence.

Keywords: Bladder cancer; Immune responses to cancer; Molecular prognosis; Neoantigens; T-cell receptor.