Objectives: Treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) has resulted in striking clinical responses, but only in a subset of patients. The goal of this study was to evaluate transcriptional signatures previously reported in the literature in an independent cohort of NSCLC patients receiving ICB.
Materials and methods: This retrospective study analyzed transcriptional profiles from pre-treatment tumor samples of 52 chemotherapy-refractory advanced NSCLC patients treated with anti-PD1/PD-L1 therapy. Gene signatures based on published reports were created and examined for their association with response to therapy and progression-free and overall survival (PFS, OS).
Results: Two signatures predicting response and outcomes were identified. One reflected the degree of immune infiltration and upregulation of interferon-gamma-induced genes. A second reflected the EMT status. Compared to those not responding to therapy, patients whose tumors responded to ICB had higher scores in an inflammatory gene signature (6.0 ± 2.9 vs -5.5 ± 3.4, p = 0.014) or a more epithelial phenotype (-1.7 ± 1.0 vs 2.1 ± 1.2, p = 0.016). Both signatures demonstrated a satisfactory predictive accuracy for response: AUC of 0.69 (95% CI: 0.54, 0.84) for the inflammatory and 0.70 (95% CI: 0.55, 0.85) for EMT signatures, respectively. A weighted score combining EMT and inflammatory signatures showed increased predictive value with AUC of 0.92 (95% CI: 0.85, 0.99). Kaplan-Meier curves for patients above and below the median combined score showed a significant separation for PFS and OS (all p < 0.01, log rank test).
Conclusions: The EMT/Inflammation signature score may be useful in directing checkpoint inhibitor therapy in lung cancer and suggests that reversal of EMT might augment efficacy of ICB.
Keywords: Cancer biomarkers; Gene signatures; Immunotherapy; Non-small cell lung cancer.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.