Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great potential in treating solid tumors, inducing durable remission and prolonged survival time in responders. Despite their promise, a large fraction of patients remains unresponsive to these treatments highlighting the need for biomarkers that can predict patient sensitivity. Pre-treatment gene expression profiles for patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors have recently become available, establishing a new medium by which to discover biomarkers that predict therapy response. In this study, we mined for transcriptomic correlates of response by applying immune cell-derived gene expression signatures to publicly available datasets containing matched gene expression and response efficacy information. These datasets were comprised of urothelial carcinoma patients receiving anti-PD-L1 (n = 25), melanoma patients receiving anti-PD-1 (n = 28), and melanoma patients receiving anti-CTLA-4 (n = 42). We identified one signature, derived from a subpopulation of B cells, with scores that were significantly and reproducibly elevated in patients experiencing clinical benefit following therapy targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis and were additionally elevated in patients responsive to anti-CTLA-4 therapy. Multivariate models revealed that this signature was associated with response independent of other response-predictive biomarkers, including tumor mutation burden. Functional annotation of the signature revealed it to be associated with features indicative of an immunologically active microenvironment, including B and T cell activation as well as antigen presentation activity. The preliminary findings presented detail a transcriptomic signature associated with response to multiple checkpoint inhibitors and suggest novel biological associations that warrant further investigation.
Keywords: B cells; Immunotherapy; biomarkers; gene signatures; genomics; immune checkpoint blockade; tumor immunology.