Targeted therapy (TT), together with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), has significantly improved clinical outcomes for patients with advanced cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) during the last decade. However, the magnitude and the duration of response vary considerably. There is still a paucity of predictive biomarkers to identify patients who benefit most from treatment. To address this, we performed targeted transcriptomics of CMM tumors to identify biomarkers associated with clinical outcomes. Pre-treatment tumor samples from 28 patients with advanced CMM receiving TT (n = 13) or ICI (n = 15) were included in the study. Targeted RNA sequencing was performed using Ion AmpliSeq ™, followed by gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) using MSigDB's Hallmark Gene Set Collection to identify gene expression signatures correlating with treatment outcome. The GSEA demonstrated that up-regulation of allograft rejection genes, together with down-regulation of E2F and MYC targets as well as G2M checkpoint genes, significantly correlated with longer progression-free survival on ICI while IFNγ and inflammatory response genes were associated with a better clinical outcome on TT. In conclusion, we identify novel genes and their expression signatures as potential predictive biomarkers for TT and ICI in patients with metastatic CMM, paving the way for clinical use following larger validation studies.
Keywords: biomarker; gene expression profiling; immunotherapy; melanoma; targeted therapy.