Immunotherapies targeting the PD-1 pathway produce durable responses in many cancers, but the tumor-intrinsic factors governing response and resistance are largely unknown. MHC-II expression on tumor cells can predict response to anti-PD-1 therapy. We therefore sought to determine how MHC-II expression by tumor cells promotes PD-1 dependency. Using transcriptional profiling of anti-PD-1-treated patients, we identified unique patterns of immune activation in MHC-II+ tumors. In patients and preclinical models, MHC-II+ tumors recruited CD4+ T cells and developed dependency on PD-1 as well as Lag-3 (an MHC-II inhibitory receptor), which was upregulated in MHC-II+ tumors at acquired resistance to anti-PD-1. Finally, we identify enhanced expression of FCRL6, another MHC-II receptor expressed on NK and T cells, in the microenvironment of MHC-II+ tumors. We ascribe this to what we believe to be a novel inhibitory function of FCRL6 engagement, identifying it as an immunotherapy target. These data suggest a MHC-II-mediated context-dependent mechanism of adaptive resistance to PD-1-targeting immunotherapy.
Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Antigen presentation; Cancer immunotherapy; Oncology; Therapeutics.