Clinical response to nivolumab in an INI1-deficient pediatric chordoma correlates with immunogenic recognition of brachyury

NPJ Precis Oncol. 2021 Dec 20;5(1):103. doi: 10.1038/s41698-021-00238-4.


Poorly differentiated chordoma (PDC) is a recently recognized subtype of chordoma characterized by expression of the embryonic transcription factor, brachyury, and loss of INI1. PDC primarily affects children and is associated with a poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Here we describe the molecular and immune tumour microenvironment profiles of two paediatric PDCs produced using whole-genome, transcriptome and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) and multiplex immunohistochemistry. Our analyses revealed the presence of tumour-associated immune cells, including CD8+ T cells, and expression of the immune checkpoint protein, PD-L1, in both patient samples. Molecular profiling provided the rationale for immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy, which resulted in a clinical and radiographic response. A dominant T cell receptor (TCR) clone specific for a brachyury peptide-MHC complex was identified from bulk RNA sequencing, suggesting that targeting of the brachyury tumour antigen by tumour-associated T cells may underlie this clinical response to ICI. Correlative analysis with rhabdoid tumours, another INI1-deficient paediatric malignancy, suggests that a subset of tumours may share common immune phenotypes, indicating the potential for a therapeutically targetable subgroup of challenging paediatric cancers.