Heterogeneity in NECTIN4 Expression Across Molecular Subtypes of Urothelial Cancer Mediates Sensitivity to Enfortumab Vedotin

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Sep 15;27(18):5123-5130. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-4175. Epub 2021 Jun 9.


Purpose: Enfortumab vedotin (EV) is an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting NECTIN4 (encoded by the PVRL4/NECTIN4 gene) approved for treatment-refractory metastatic urothelial cancer. Factors that mediate sensitivity or resistance to EV are unknown. In this study, we sought to (i) examine heterogeneity of NECTIN4 gene expression across molecular subtypes of bladder cancer and (ii) determine whether NECTIN4 expression mediates EV sensitivity or resistance.

Experimental design: Molecular subtyping and NECTIN4 expression data from seven muscle-invasive bladder cancer clinical cohorts (n = 1,915 total specimens) were used to assess NECTIN4 expression across molecular subtypes. The outcome of the transcriptomic analysis was relative NECTIN4 expression in the consensus molecular subtypes of bladder cancer. Expression of NECTIN4 was validated in bladder cancer cell lines. NECTIN4 was stably overexpressed or knocked down in basal and luminal bladder cancer cell lines and EV drug sensitivity assays were performed, as measured by cell proliferation and clonogenic assays.

Results: NECTIN4 expression is heterogenous across molecular subtypes of bladder cancer and significantly enriched in luminal subtypes. NECTIN4 expression is positively correlated with luminal markers GATA3, FOXA1, and PPARG across all cohorts. NECTIN4 expression is both necessary and sufficient for EV sensitivity in luminal and basal subtypes of urothelial bladder cancer cells. Downregulation of NECTIN4 leads to EV resistance.

Conclusions: Sensitivity to EV is mediated by expression of NECTIN4, which is enriched in luminal subtypes of bladder cancer. These findings may have implications for biomarker development, patient selection, and the inclusion of molecular subtyping in ongoing and future EV clinical trials.See related commentary by Teo and Rosenberg, p. 4950.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / classification*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / genetics*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immunoconjugates / therapeutic use*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / classification*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Immunoconjugates
  • NECTIN4 protein, human
  • enfortumab vedotin